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Gunmen Kill 11 Iraqi Farm Workers

February 14, 2006

BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) _ Gunmen attacked a group of Iraqi Shiites working Tuesday on a farm north of Baghdad, killing 11 and wounding two, a police chief and hospital official said. One coalition soldier was killed and six wounded in two separate attacks in Baghdad.

Authorities in the southern Iraqi province of Basra, meanwhile, severed all ties with Britain amid the furor of the alleged British military abuse of several Iraqi males in Amarah,180 miles southeast of Baghdad, two years ago.

British military officials said the Basra decision was regrettable. The provincial police chief said included all security cooperation and joint patrols conducted with British soldiers throughout the vast Basra province.

``Decisions like these and reductions in patrols hinder the process of promoting security and economic reform and merely work to the detriment of the people of Basra,″ said British military spokesman Capt. James St. John-Price.

British-Iraqi relations have been strained recently over British arrests of local police linked to killings and kidnappings and British security control over Basra International Airport.

Basra authorities also demanded the 530-member Danish military contingent leave unless the Danish government apologizes for the contentious Prophet Muhammad drawings that appeared in Danish and European newspapers.

Two Iraqi males purporting to be victims of the alleged British abuse told reporters Tuesday that they would seek compensation from the British government.

``They were beating us with fists and batons and were kicking us,″ said Bassem Shaker, 27. ``Then they cuffed our hands and also dragged us to their base, which is about 15 meters (yards) from the governor’s office, where they also beat us and frightened us with dogs before releasing us before sunset.″

The alleged abuses followed a Jan. 10, 2004 protest in Amarah over the lack of jobs and came to light Sunday after videotaped footage of the beatings were revealed by British newspaper, News of the World. A British military probe has started and one soldier, believed to be the cameraman, has been detained.

Police chief Brig. Mohammed al-Baldawi said eight members of the same family were killed, including Sheik Hussein al-Hayali, owner of the farm in Balad, 50 miles north of Baghdad.

The attack happened shortly before midday when unidentified armed men sprayed gun fire at a group of farm workers, said al-Baldawi.

Eleven people were killed and two wounded, said Dr. Qassim al-Qaisi of Balad Hospital where the victims were brought to.

Balad is a religiously mixed area where Shiite-Sunni Arab sectarian violence has flared previously.

Two attacks in Baghdad on Tuesday killed one coalition soldier and wounded six others, the U.S. military said. The military press office said it did not know the nationality of the victims.

Sgt. Stan Lavery said a roadside bomb targeted a military vehicle at 10:30 a.m. in Abu Ghraib, western Baghdad, killing one soldier and wounding two others.

About an hour later, another coalition convoy was attacked in the Baghdad’s western Salaam area, wounding four soldiers.

At least 12 Iraqis were wounded in a series of roadside bombings and mortar barrages across Baghdad, while police also found the bullet-riddled bodies of eight men in different locations throughout the capital. The identities of the victims were unclear.

The attacks took place as the trial of Saddam Hussein and seven co-defendants resumed, with the former president claiming he and three former officials in his regime were on a hunger strike in protest of the judge overseeing the proceedings, which were adjourned until Feb. 28.

Saddam said he had not eaten in three days, while his former intelligence chief, Ibrahim Barzan, said he had been on strike for two days. Their claims of a hunger strike could not be independently confirmed. The defendants are being held in U.S. detention, and U.S. officials could not immediately be reached to comment.

Investigative judge Raid Juhi did not deny the defendants were refusing food, but added: ``As you could see, the defendants are in good health.″

Chief judge Raouf Abdel-Rahman, who took over the court last month, has worked to impose order in a court where outbursts and arguments have frequently overshadowed the testimony.

The defendants refused to attend sessions last month after their defense team walked out of court. The defense lawyers have refused to participate in the trial until Abdel-Rahman is removed, accusing him of bias against Saddam.

The prosecution continued its attempts to prove Saddam and his seven co-defendants were directly involved in a wave of arrests and executions that followed a 1982 attempt on his life in the Shiite village of Dujail.

Since the trial began Oct. 19, Saddam and Ibrahim have only dealt with the court with contempt, interrupting it with outbursts, arguments and insults.