Our Iraq update comes from the Lebanese Daily Star.
Thousands of Iraqi forces on Sunday threw a security net over Baghdad to snare insurgents, who quickly struck back with a string of car bombings said to have been masterminded by Al-Qaeda’s Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.
Operation Lightning came a day after two of Iraq’s most influential Shiite and Sunni organizations agreed to try to ease sectarian tensions pushing the country toward civil war.
Four car bombs in and around the capital killed 16 people, most of them security personnel, in a swift response to Iraq’s widest homegrown clampdown since the fall of Saddam Hussein over two years ago.
Nine soldiers taking part in Operation Lightning died in a suicide car bombing at their roadblock just south of the capital, while two policemen were killed when a suicide car bomber targeted their patrol in southwestern Baghdad.
In an effort to mitigate escalating sectarian tensions, officials from the Sunni Committee of Muslim Scholars, considered close to some insurgent groups, met with representatives from the Badr Brigades – the military wing of Iraq’s largest Shiite party, the Supreme Council of the Islamic Revolution in Iraq.
Organized by the radical cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, the gathering aimed to smother accusations that began earlier this month when the committee’s leader, Harith al-Dhari, accused the Badr Brigades of killing Sunnis and executing their clerics. A number of Shiite clerics were also killed. The brigades denied the charges…
In western Baghdad, a car bomb targeting police commandos killed three people and wounded 20, an Interior Ministry source said.
An earlier suicide bombing near the Oil Ministry left two dead, while violence elsewhere claimed the lives of a British soldier and seven Iraqis. Insurgent attacks nationwide have claimed the lives of around 700 people so far this month.
“Squadrons and brigades directed by the sheikh of the mujihadeen Abu Musab al-Zarqawi on Sunday launched an operation planned and supervised by our sheikh,” said an Internet statement attributed to his group…