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ICC NOTE: — Insurgent and sectarian attacks in the Iraqi capital have shot up during Ramadan, the Muslim holy month of fasting and atonement. This of course is affecting the Christian population in Iraq .

Violence Up During Ramadan

October 13, 2006

LA Times — Insurgent and sectarian attacks in the Iraqi capital have shot up during Ramadan, the Muslim holy month of fasting and atonement, according to U.S. military statistics released Thursday.

Since the beginning of the holiday nearly three weeks ago, the number of violent incidents has averaged 36 a day. That compares with about 28 a day since mid-June, when U.S. and Iraqi security forces began a high-profile security crackdown aimed at stemming the violence between Sunni Arabs and Shiite Muslims.

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In the three months before the offensive, the number of violent incidents averaged 22 a day.

“We assume it will still get worse before it gets better,” Army Maj. Gen. William B. Caldwell IV said in Baghdad on Thursday. “We expect violence to continue to increase over the next two weeks, until the end of Ramadan.”

The holy month, observed by Muslims worldwide as the time when Allah revealed the Koran to the prophet Muhammad, plays a key role in the radical Salafi and Wahhabi strains of Sunni Islam. Traditionally, the month has served as a period for demonstrating one’s faith by reading the Koran, doing charitable acts and engaging in personal reflection. The insurgents may see Ramadan as a time to express their faith by engaging in acts of warfare against their perceived enemies.

The violence Thursday included an attack by masked gunmen on a new Baghdad satellite TV station in which 11 employees were methodically executed, with silencers used to muffle the shots, police and witnesses said.

The victims were among at least 61 Iraqis killed or found dead Thursday. Caldwell said Shiite and Sunni gangs were behind the wanton sectarian bloodshed.

“We are in fact finding that it’s really, truly just for pure killing,” he said.

A U.S. soldier was also reported killed, a member of the 25th Infantry Division wounded in combat Wednesday along with two other soldiers near the northern city of Kirkuk . At least 44 U.S. military personnel have been killed in the first 11 days of the month, putting October on a pace to be one of the deadliest months for American troops since the U.S.-led invasion in March 2003.

Among those killed at the TV station was the chairman of the Al Shaabiya channel’s board of directors, Abdul Raheem Nasrallah. He also was the leader of the small nationalist political party behind the station.

Most of the others slain in the 7 a.m. attack on the newly launched, privately owned pan-Arab station were bodyguards and technicians. The programming director clung to life Thursday evening at a Baghdad hospital with bullet wounds to the neck and mouth. Another man also was wounded.

At least some of the killers were said to have been wearing police uniforms and to have arrived in cars that resembled official police vehicles, raising suspicions that the killings were tied to the Shiite Muslim militias that allegedly have infiltrated the Interior Ministry’s security forces.

Muqtada Sadr, the radical Shiite cleric whose Al Mahdi militia is suspected of involvement in sectarian killings, denounced such slayings as sacrilegious.

“The wrongdoer cannot hide behind what is right, and the title of the Mahdi army is a title of righteousness,” he said in a statement. “Those wrongdoers should make use of the Ramadan period, and repent as long as the doors of repentance are wide open.”

The killers at the station appeared to have let the two female employees go but shot all 13 men who were there.