Siege in Baghdad suburb: Army on streets after assassination attempt

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IRAQI security forces are besieging a predominantly Shia Muslim neighbourhood in Baghdad after an assassination attempt on the Interior Minister failed.

Iraqi opposition sources said that on Monday an armed group tried to kill and may have wounded Watban al-Hassan, the Interior Minister, who is President Saddam Hussein's half-brother. The government sent tanks and trucks with mounted machine-guns into the Saddam City district of Baghdad where the attempt took place.

Travellers from Iraq yesterday spoke of house-to-house searches, explosions and casualties in the district.

A Shia opposition source in London said: 'This was a planned act by organised residents seeking retaliation against the government. It is very serious. It was not part of an organised opposition plot, but it shows how people are tired of the unbearable cost of living and government executions aimed at terrorising them.'

Residents in Saddam City have been angered by a recent spate of daily executions of Shia youths charged with petty crimes. The youths are paraded on television to confess, shot in the mouth and then dumped on their families' doorsteps.

An Amnesty International report released yesterday accused the Iraqi government of having launched a systematic campaign against Shia clerics and students after the 1991 Shia uprising.