Pharmacist back from US among 18 killed in Iraq unrest

BAGHDAD, Salam Faraj- An Iraqi pharmacist just back from his studies in the United States was among at least 18 people killed in a spate of attacks across the country over the weekend, officials said on Sunday.
More than 20 other people were wounded in the violence, the latest in a surge of killings in August and as Muslims observe the holy dawn-to-dusk fasting month of Ramadan, when insurgents typically step up their attacks.

Pharmacist back from US among 18 killed in Iraq unrest
The escalation has fuelled security concerns at a time when the United States aims to withdraw thousands of troops by the end of August, when it declares an end to US combat operations in Iraq.
Mohammed Ali al-Deen, who returned less than a month ago after completing a pharmacy course in Washington DC, was gunned down late on Saturday at his home in Noamaniyah in the central province of Wasit, a police officer said.
The officer said three masked gunmen burst into Deen's home in the centre of the town, 130 kilometres (80 miles) south of Baghdad, at around 9:30 pm (1830 GMT) and shot him dead.
It was not clear why Deen, an unmarried 34-year-old who lived with his parents and studied at George Washington University, was targeted. His family was unharmed in the shooting.
In a pre-dawn attack on Sunday, three Sunni Muslims were gunned down as they left Abid Wais mosque in Jurf al-Sakhr, 50 kilometres (30 miles) south of the capital in the mainly Shiite province of Babil, police said.
The drive-by shooting, which also wounded one person, took place at 4:00 am (0100 GMT), after worshippers emerged from Ramadan prayers which follow a communal meal ahead of another day-long fast.
Jurf al-Sakhr is in a confessionally mixed region known as the Triangle of Death since a wave of insurgent attacks during the worst of Iraq's violence following the 2003 US-led invasion.
Three others, including an off-duty policeman, were killed when their minibus was struck by a bomb attack as it travelled to the centre of Baghdad from an eastern quarter, an interior ministry official said.
He added that 11 people, including three women, were wounded.
A traffic policeman and a civilian were also killed, and a police officer was wounded, when a roadside bomb exploded near Al-Shaab stadium in the east of the capital, a doctor at Ibn Nafis hospital said.
Another person was killed and seven others wounded by three roadside bombs in northern Baghdad, interior and defence ministry officials said.
In Mosul, one Iraqi soldier was killed and another wounded in a shooting at a security checkpoint in the restive northern city, 350 kilometres from the capital, police said.
That followed violence on Saturday in which six policemen and an anti-Qaeda militiaman were killed and one policeman was wounded, security officials said.
The latest unrest, in which well over 100 people have been killed so far this month, has fuelled security fears as Washington pulls out thousands of troops, although US officers insist Iraqi soldiers and police are up to the task of replacing them.
But Iraq's top military officer has raised doubt about his soldiers' readiness when the last US troops depart as scheduled at the end of 2011. American forces would need to stay until 2020, Lieutenant General Babaker Zebari said last week.
Iraq is also grappling with a five-month-long political impasse after a March 7 parliamentary election failed to produce a new government.

Sunday, August 15th 2010
Salam Faraj

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