It's a 'state of civil war', admits Iraqi government official

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The Independent Online

Iraq is in a state of civil war, a senior Iraqi official admitted for the first time yesterday, on the eve of today's third anniversary of the fall of Baghdad.

On 9 April 2003, the collapse of Saddam Hussein's regime was symbolised by the toppling of his statue in central Baghdad, but Iraq's deputy interior minister, Hussein Ali Kamal said: "Actually Iraq has been in an undeclared civil war for the past 12 months," he told the BBC's Arabic service.

"On a daily basis Shias, Sunnis, Kurds and Christians are being killed and the only undeclared thing is that a civil war has not been officially announced by the parties involved."

Last month, the former Prime Minister, Iyad Allawi, said Iraq was in a state of civil war, but was hastily contradicted by serving members of the Iraqi government, as well as British and American leaders. Yesterday, Mr Kamal did add that although civil war was happening, it was "not on a wide scale".

A car bomb killed at least six Shia pilgrims south of Baghdad yesterday, a day after a multiple suicide bombing at the Buratha mosque in northern Baghdad killed 85 people and injured 156 in what was the deadliest attack in Iraq this year.

Funeral processions wound through the streets of several Baghdad neighbourhoods yesterday. "We are the sons of one country, and one religion," Jabar al-Maliki, a white-robed cleric, said at a funeral for three men, all shop owners between the ages of 28 and 35. "These criminal acts are conducted by corrupt, terrorist groups that ... have no sense of humanity."

In Ramadi, meawhile, US forces beat back the largest attack by Sunni insurgents in weeks, using laser-guided bombs, anti-tank rockets and machine-guns to repel an assault on the main government building. There were also clashes between Iraqi troops and Sunni insurgents in Fallujah and Karmah.

The string of attacks on Shia mosques and shrines is likely to stoke tensions between Shias and Sunni Muslims, making it even harder for them to form a government that can represent all Iraqis.

The US and Britain see such a government as the only solution to stemming the violence, but negotiations have stalled over Sunni and Kurdish opposition to Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari, who has refused to step aside.