Kidnapped Iraqi journalist is found slain

( LatWp )- The managing editor of a daily government-run newspaper launched with U.S. funding after the fall of Saddam Hussein was found slain Sunday, the 85th Iraqi journalist to be killed in Iraq since the war began.

The body of Filaih Wadi Mijthab of the daily newspaper Al Sabah was discovered in Baghdad the same day a four-day-old curfew imposed after the bombing of a Shiite Muslim mosque in the city of Samarra was lifted.

Five additional corpses of unidentified men, apparent victims of sectarian murders, also were discovered Sunday.

Mijthab was kidnapped Wednesday by gunmen in several cars who intercepted his vehicle as he drove to work. Iraqi journalists are constant targets of insurgents. Of the 107 journalists killed in Iraq since the U.S. invasion of March 2003, at least 85 have been Iraqi, according to statistics compiled by the Committee to Protect Journalists. Fourteen have been from the U.S.-funded Iraqi Media Network, which includes Al Sabah and state-run Iraqiya television.

Around the capital Sunday, U.S. troops stepped up efforts against insurgents linked to al-Qaida, part of a new offensive announced a day earlier in conjunction with the arrival of the last of 28,500 extra American troops sent to enforce President Bush's security plan.

In one incident in western Baghdad, six suspected insurgents were killed during a shootout Sunday with U.S. forces, according to a military statement. Troops came under fire as they attempted to raid a building suspected of being involved in suicide bombing operations. The troops returned fire, killing the alleged insurgents. There were no reports of U.S. casualties.

Four more suspected insurgents were shot to death during a raid in western al-Anbar province Sunday, the military announced.

Three U.S. soldiers were reported killed in Iraq. Brief statements said all three died Saturday in bomb blasts, two near Tikrit and one in Kirkuk. At least 3,521 American troops have died in Iraq since 2003, according to www.icasualties.org.

The military on Saturday said the arrival of extra U.S. troops, who began deploying to Iraq in February as part of Bush's attempt to pacify the capital, had allowed commanders to put a new focus on pro-al-Qaida groups. The offensive is aimed at cutting routes into Baghdad and destroying bomb factories.

The Iraqi government has accused groups linked to al-Qaida of being behind the bombing of the Golden Mosque in Samarra, a revered Shiite shrine. Iraqi officials imposed a curfew in Baghdad and Samarra to prevent revenge attacks on Sunni Muslims, but after the lifting of the curfew in the capital Sunday, there were no immediate indications of sectarian violence returning. The curfew remained in effect in Samarra.

Some residents of Baghdad speculated that Iraqis simply were tired of Sunni-Shiite violence, which exploded in February 2006 after the first bombing of the Golden Mosque. They also said many Iraqis suspected U.S. involvement in the latest attack, a theory put forth by radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr. The cleric has said the United States and Israel planned the attack to instigate sectarian violence and divide Muslims.

``People are more aware now that there are foreign hands behind these incidents,'' said 23-year-old Zuhair Abdullah, a shopkeeper in the mixed neighborhood of Karada. ``Sure, there will be sporadic incidents here and there, but not similar in magnitude to what happened previously.''

Haidar Majeed, 21, agreed. ``People are really tired of this whole Shiite-Sunni thing,'' he said, echoing many Iraqis' views that before the U.S. invasion sectarian bloodshed was rare.

``Sure there was tension before, but not to the extent of killing each other. The Americans brought in terrorism with them. I don't know if they did it intentionally or not, but I have no doubt about that,'' Majeed said.

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