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Iraq: End bloodshed and killing of children

Iraq: End bloodshed and killing of children

Amnesty International condemns in the strongest terms the indiscriminate attack by armed groups on Thursday that killed at least 41 civilians, 34 of them children. The attack caused the highest number of children casualties since the beginning of the US-led war on Iraq last year.

A series of bombs were detonated in Baghdad yesterday as crowds were gathering to celebrate the opening of a water treatment plant, and US soldiers were handing out sweets to children. It is not clear whether the US convoy or the crowds were the prime target of the attack, which caused 41 casualties and 131 injured.

The Tawhid and Jihad armed group led by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi claimed responsibility for the attacks in a statement posted on a website. The group hailed the attacks as "heroic operations". The group has been responsible for a string of attacks, as well as the kidnapping of foreign nationals, including two American contractors, Jack Hensley and Eugene Armstrong, who were later beheaded by their captors, and the British engineer Kenneth Bigley who remains kidnapped.

Amnesty International calls on armed groups to stop killing civilians and carrying out indiscriminate attacks, targeting densely populated areas, and to respect minimum standards of international humanitarian law, justice and humanity in their actions. Indiscriminate attacks have devastating effects and reveal complete disregard for the most fundamental human right- the right to life.

Amnesty International expressed its deep concern at the growing number of civilian casualties in Iraq. There are mounting reports of civilians caught in battles between US troops and insurgents.

US and Iraqi forces have reportedly launched a major offensive against alleged insurgents in the town of Samarra on Friday 1st October. The troops, backed by armoured vehicles and warplanes, reportedly advanced through the city overnight. Clashes have occurred between the military and armed insurgents, some close to a mosque that attracts many worshippers to the region. According to a hospital doctor, 23 civilians have been killed and 45 injured. The US military has announced that 80 insurgents have been killed.

In recent weeks the US has launched almost nightly bombardments in Falluja. Operations have also taken place in the cities of Ramadi and in Sadr City, Baghdad. While it has been difficult to determine the number of civilian casualties, witnesses and hospital officials have disputed US military accounts of the "precision strikes", and claimed that tens of civilians - including women and children -- have been killed.

It has been reported that the attack against Samarra by the Multinational Forces (MNF) may be the beginning of a wider offensive. Amnesty International fears that civilians are at continued risk unless necessary precautions are taken to protect them.

Amnesty International calls on the MNF to take all necessary precautions to protect civilians and respect the principles of necessity and proportionality, and to take measures to ensure that they comply fully with their obligations under international law.

The lack of security and continued violence in Iraq limits every day life of Iraqis and their right to enjoy basic human rights. Amnesty International urges all parties in Iraq to fully meet their obligations under international law, and end the spiralling cycle of violence and impunity.

People come first - Protect Human Rights: Iraq Crisis home page at http://amnesty-news.c.topica.com/maacH6Nabat70bb0hPub/

Iraq in the AI Report 2004: http://amnesty-news.c.topica.com/maacH6Nabat71bb0hPub/

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