Sunnis End Iraqi Parliament Boycott
Jul 19, 9:18 AM (ET)
By QASSIM ABDUL-ZAHRA
BAGHDAD (AP) - Sunni lawmakers ended their five-week boycott of parliament Thursday, raising hopes the factious assembly can make progress on benchmark legislation demanded by Washington. The U.S. said two American soldiers have been charged with killing an Iraqi.
Also Thursday, the U.S. command announced the deaths of five American soldiers. Four soldiers and their Iraqi interpreter were killed Wednesday in a roadside bombing in east Baghdad and one soldier was killed Friday by small arms fire near Rusdi Mulla, just to the southwest of the city.
The 44 members of the Iraqi Accordance Front attended Thursday's session after striking a deal with other blocs to reinstate the Sunni speaker, Mahmoud al-Mashhadani, who was ousted by the Shiite-dominated assembly last month for erratic behavior.
Al-Mashhadani is expected to gracefully resign after presiding over a number of sessions. Shiite legislator Hassan al-Suneid, an aide to Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, said al-Mashhadani's return came after secret conditions that should not be made public.
"We all have to work together to rescue Iraq from the catastrophe which has befallen it," Sunni leader Adnan al-Dulaimi told parliament. "This is the first step in solving the Iraqi problem and in stopping the bloodshed."
The Sunnis ended their walkout two days after Shiite lawmakers loyal to anti-U.S. cleric Muqtada al-Sadr ended their boycott after officials accepted their demands for rebuilding a Shiite shrine damaged by bombings.
Those two boycotts had paralyzed the 275-member parliament, which is under strong criticism from U.S. critics for failing to approve key legislation and for plans to take a month's vacation in August at a time when American and Iraqi troops are dying on the battlefield.
The sensitivities displayed by both the Accordance Front and al-Sadr's allies indicates the depth of suspicion and sectarian rivalry prevalent in Iraq after more than four years of war.
Each was charged with one count of murder in the death, which allegedly occurred June 23 near the northern city of Kirkuk, the U.S. said.
Lt. Col. Michael Browder, who was their battalion commander, is not a suspect and has not been charged with any offense but was fired for leadership failure, the U.S. said.
The statement noted that the charges are allegations and neither of the two soldiers has been convicted.
The charges were announced one day after a U.S. Marine was convicted of kidnapping and conspiracy to murder in connection with the death of an Iraq last year in Hamdania. Cpl. Trent Thomas was acquitted of the most serious charge of premeditated murder during a trial at Camp Pendleton, Calif.
U.S. troops killed three al-Qaida suspects Thursday as they tried to slip out of the city, Iraqi security officials said. Clashes occurred during the day as American and Iraqi forces moved through the streets, securing buildings and clearing explosives.
One insurgent explosives expert led U.S. and Iraqi troops to a bombs cache hidden in two homes of Shiites who had fled sectarian tension, police said.
U.S. troops regained control of the western half of the city last month and launched operations into the rest of Baqouba on Tuesday.
Since last month, the Americans said they have killed at least 67 al-Qaida operatives in Baqouba, arrested 253, seized 63 weapons caches and have destroyed 151 roadside bombs.
In Baghdad, suspected Shiite militiamen blew up the minaret on a Sunni mosque in the city's Jihad area, police said. The bodies of two men with bullets in their heads were found dumped near the mosque, police said on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to release the information.
Gunmen firing from a speeding car killed a bodyguard of a Sunni parliament member in Mosul, police said. A Kurdish political party member was ambushed and killed in eastern Mosul, police also said, speaking on condition of anonymity for the same reason.
In western Iraq, residents said assailants blew up two bridges in Haditha overnight. The bridges connect Haditha with Anah, about 160 miles northwest of the capital. The American forces are blocking the area now looking for those involved in the operation.
The residents spoke on condition of anonymity out of fears for their safety.