Curfew helps quell violence in Iraq
Military reports two US deaths
BAGHDAD -- A round-the-clock curfew imposed ahead of the verdict against Saddam Hussein kept a relative peace in Iraq's most dangerous regions yesterday, but the US military announced two more American deaths and police said 72 people were killed or found dead nationwide by daybreak.
Iraq's government clamped the open-ended curfew on Baghdad and the restive provinces of Diyala and Salahuddin, closed the city's international airport, added checkpoints, and stepped up police patrols with the US military. All leave for Iraqi soldiers was canceled.
No widespread bloodshed was reported in Baghdad, despite raucous celebrations by Shi'ites who defied the curfew in the capital to rejoice over the death sentence given to Hussein and angry counterprotests in Sunni regions.
The security crackdown was one of the heaviest since the February bombing of an important Shi'ite shrine that unleashed rampant violence between Sunnis and Shi'ites.
Security forces also closed two Sunni Muslim television stations after Hussein was sentenced to hang, saying that they violated the curfew and a law that bans airing material that could undermine the country's stability.
Brigadier General Abdul-Karim Khalaf, the Interior Ministry spokesman, said that the Al-Zawraa and Salahuddin stations were closed on the approval of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.
West of Baghdad, fighters sprayed machine gun bullets at US headquarters in the former Sunni insurgent stronghold of Fallujah, a local police officer said. No injuries or arrests were reported.
US and Iraqi forces killed 53 suspected insurgents in ground fighting and airstrikes Saturday night in a rural area about 14 miles from the capital, said another official, police Lieutenant Bilal Ali Majid.
An early morning mortar barrage killed two people and wounded four in the strife-ridden Dora neighborhood, while another mortar killed one and injured four in Jisr Diyala, 12 miles south of Baghdad, Ali Majid said.
The US military did not directly comment on the reported airstrike, although it did say an Air Force Predator unmanned drone had fired a Hellfire missile at enemy targets on Saturday in an area north of the capital.
Lieutenant Thaer Mahmoud, head of a police section responsible for releasing daily death tolls, gave no details on the 72 recovered bodies , but the number is not unusual for Baghdad, where the tortured bodies of people abducted by death squads are routinely found dumped around the city or floating in the Tigris River.
At least six people died in violence yesterday in and around the capital, including three people killed by rocket and mortar attacks on the primarily Sunni Azamiyah neighborhood, police Major Firas Gaiti said.
"Nobody dares to go out. Even inside, we stay in the cellar," one resident said in a phone interview.
The US military identified the two casualties as a soldier killed in fighting in western Baghdad and a Marine assigned to Regimental Combat Team 7, who died from nonhostile causes in Anbar Province. Both died on Saturday.
At least 13 US troops have died in Iraq this month, following a bloody October in which 105 service members were killed -- the fourth highest monthly toll of the war.