New wave of violence hits Iraq

By LEILA FADEL and ALI AL-BASRI/McClatchy Newspapers
BAGHDAD | Basra’s Christian archbishop on Tuesday canceled the celebration of Christmas there to protest the deaths of two Christians as bombings and mayhem struck throughout Iraq.

Archbishop Imad al-Banna said that Christians in Basra should still pray to mark Christmas but should forgo such celebratory trappings as trees, gift-swapping and family gatherings to protest the deaths of Maysoon Farid, a 30-year-old cashier at a local pharmacy, and her brother, Osama Farid, 33.

They were found dead Monday night, their bodies dumped in a neighborhood controlled by the Shiite Muslim Mahdi Army militia.

Elsewhere, two police officers in Baghdad were killed by a car bomb that struck near the homes of two prominent politicians, and south of Fallujah, relatives mourned a 9-year-old girl who they said was killed by U.S. troops.

A friend of Maysoon Farid, Jassim al-Mousawi, said that Farid’s brother was kidnapped about noon Monday. The kidnapper then used the brother’s phone to contact Maysoon Farid and demanded that she meet with him to win her brother’s release, al-Mousawi said. Their bodies were found Monday night in a poor neighborhood in downtown Basra.

There was no claim of responsibility.

The Baghdad bombing happened about 20 yards from the home of a Sunni legislator, Saleh al-Mutlaq, and about 400 yards from the home of former Iraqi Prime Minister Ayad Allawi.

Police said the car that exploded was driven by a man who passed unchallenged through a checkpoint leading into a neighborhood where many Iraqi officials live just outside the Green Zone. At a second checkpoint, guards asked him for identification, but he sped forward and detonated the car, killing two police officers.

The blast destroyed two trailers that al-Mutlaq’s security detail used and shattered the windows in al-Mutlaq’s house.