Morning Report 6/3/05
Gushers in Iraq

Homicidal watermelons and other seeds of violence help blood overtake oil as chief export


Yes, that's blood pouring out of Iraq in this editorial cartoon from the Baghdad independent daily Al-Sabah al-Jadeed.

The nightmarish violence in Iraq is so bad that insurgents have even turned the hapless watermelon into a murder weapon.

The Baghdad paper Al-Mada reports that at least one Iraqi cop has died and several others have been hospitalized after eating poisoned watermelons distributed to six police checkpoints. According to Al-Mada's dispatch, translated by the Institute for War & Peace Reporting's Ali Kadhim Marzook in Baghdad for the June 2 Iraqi Press Monitor:

    In a new way of targeting Iraqi security forces, insurgents have distributed poisonous watermelons to police checkpoints, which resulted in the death of one officer. Nine others were taken to the hospital for treatment. A Defense Ministry official said an unknown seller driving a pick-up truck distributed the poisonous watermelons to six checkpoints.

Lieutenant Colonel Andre Hance, a U.S. military spokesman in Mosul, was apparently behind the curve, not knowing how many Iraqi cops were hospitalized or whether any died. The AP reports from Mosul:

    The soldiers had been manning checkpoints between Sharqat, 260 kilometers northwest of Baghdad, to Hammam al-Alil, 80 kilometers further north toward Mosul.

    "We don't know yet what the watermelons were injected with, but investigations are ongoing now to try and determine what poison was used," Hance said.

    It was not immediately clear if the detained man was aware the watermelons had been poisoned, was acting alone or part of a cell. Police forces have been routinely targeted by insurgents who regard Iraqi security forces as collaborating with the U.S.-led occupation of Iraq.

Well, that last sentence is one way of saying it, but Carol J. Williams of the Los Angeles Times, who didn't mention the watermelons, described the seeds of violence much better in her dispatch yesterday about the staggering increase in suicide bombings:

    Suicide attacks outpaced car bombings almost 2-to-1 in May, according to figures compiled by the U.S. military, the Times and other media outlets. In April, there were 69 suicide attacks, more than in the entire year preceding the June 28, 2004, hand-over of sovereignty.

    The frequency of suicide bombings here is unprecedented, exceeding that of Palestinian attacks against Israel and of other militant insurgencies, such as the Chechen rebellion in Russia. Baghdad saw five suicide bombings in a six-hour span Sunday.

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More than in either Chechnya or Israel? Could it get any worse in Iraq? Yes, it could, it has, and it will.

Ellen Knickmeyer of the Washington Post quotes Iraqi officials in her story this morning as saying 12,000 civilians have been killed so far. And then she breaks down the breakdown:

    At least 36 more Iraqi civilians, security force members and officials were killed Thursday in attacks that underscored the ruthlessness and growing randomness of much of the violence. The day's victims included 12 people killed when a suicide attacker drove a vehicle loaded with explosives into a restaurant near the northern city of Kirkuk.

    In Baghdad, gunmen opened fire on a market area crowded with civilians, killing nine, the Defense Ministry said.

    The U.S. military reported that two soldiers were killed Wednesday, by a bomb and by small-arms fire, in the western city of Ramadi.

    Thursday's violence demonstrated the ability of insurgents to keep up attacks despite a week-old security operation in Baghdad billed as the most aggressive yet by Iraq's new government, in office for less than two months.

And prime watermelon-eatin' time has hardly begun.

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