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45 Bodies Found in Iraq; Cleric Demands Coalition Forces Leave

BY Admin  May 16, 2005 at 12:30 PM EDT

Meanwhile, radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr emerged from hiding Monday to demand coalition forces exit the country. He also urged punishment for Saddam Hussein, who brutally suppressed Shiites during his three-decade rule and is now being held in a U.S. detention facility in the capital Baghdad awaiting trial on war crimes charges.

“I demand several things, including punishing Saddam and calling on the Iraqi government, religious movements and political factions to work hard to kick out the occupier,” al-Sadr said, according to the Associated Press. “I want the immediate withdrawal of the occupation forces.”

Al-Sadr, who spoke at a press conference at his father’s home in Najaf, 100 miles south of Baghdad, had not been seen in public since his militia clashed with American forces in Baghdad and Najaf in August 2004.

His reappearance coincides with efforts involving Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Chalabi to have murder charges against the cleric dropped. An Iraqi judge has issued an arrest warrant charging al-Sadr and his top lieutenant Riyadh al-Nouri in the 2003 assassination of the moderate cleric Abdul Majid al-Khoei.

Al-Sadr’s appearance also came as more bodies were found in various parts of Iraq, from a vacant lot in Sadr City to a Latifiyah chicken farm south of Baghdad in a region dubbed the Triangle of Death, reported the AP.

The spokesman for Iraqi Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari condemned the killings and said security forces were determined to find the perpetrators.

The attacks “aim to create sectarian fighting in the country because such clashes could bring more recruits to (militant) groups,” spokesman Laith Kuba told the AP. “The government is aware of that and will not let this plan succeed.”

The bodies included those of two Iraqi journalists who were found in their car on a road south of Baghdad, 10 soldiers dumped in Ramadi, two truck drivers lying with nine other bodies in the chicken farm and a judge found nearby. Seven others were found in the Latifiyah area.

Many of the victims had been blindfolded, bound and shot multiple times in the head. Most, including 13 found in Sadr City, had no documents to identify them.

The body of the Iraqi Kurd discovered Monday had been shot in the head and chest and left in a garbage dump in Kirkuk, 180 miles north of Baghdad, police and witnesses said.

Three more bodies, who police said had been shot in the head, had been left near a dam in Baghdad’s eastern Shaab neighborhood and were taken to a hospital in the capital.

Elsewhere, mortar barrages, roadside bombings and drive-by shootings killed at least 10 Iraqis, including four soldiers who died in a roadside bombing as they raced to a nearby fire station that had come under mortar fire, reported the AP.