Violence continues despite Iraq handover

Meanwhile, the Special Iraqi Tribunal has announced a deal has been struck for the handover of former dictator Saddam Hussein and 11 of his henchmen within days.

Tribunal head Salem Chalabi said they will be kept under Iraqi control with assistance from the multinational force.

“As a consequence over the next few days, the Iraqi authorities will be taking custody of 12 senior members of the previous regime, including Saddam Hussein, this being the first transfer of those senior members who will be charged with the commission of serious crimes,” said a statement announcing the deal.

Mr Chalabi did not name any others who are to be transferred, however he has previously mentioned Saddam’s cousin, Ali Hassan Majid, as a candidate for the tribunal’s first trial.

Majid, known as Chemical Ali, is believed responsible for the killing of 5,000 Kurds.

The Iraqi handover of power was due to take place on Wednesday, however was conducted in a surprise early ceremony on Monday, ostensibly to reduce the risk of violence.

The country’s new leaders said they are ready to take on the job during a flag-raising ceremony on Monday, broadcast live on Iraqi television.

Prime Minister Iyad Allawi urged people to unite against violence, and said security is his top priority.

But within hours of the handover, reports emerged of the killing of US hostage, soldier Keith Maupin, who was captured in April.

Al-Jazeera television reported the killing, and broadcast part of a video which it said showed Private Maupin, 20, kneeling blindfolded just before he was killed by militants.

But the US military said it is too early to confirm his death.

However three Turkish hostage held by an al-Qaeda linked extremist group that had threatened to execute them have been released.

Iraqi ministers have offered an amnesty to those involved in the insurgency and have threatened to take tough measures against those continuing to launch attacks.

Meanwhile Kuwait has announced it will resume diplomatic relations with Iraq, severed in 1990 when Saddam’s forced invaded the emirate.

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