SUNNI PARTY CRITICIZES U.S. CASUALTIES IN BAQUBA

(PHOTO, COURTESY STEVEN MOYER)

BAGHDAD, July 1 (Xinhua) — A major Sunni political party on Sunday criticized the ongoing U.S.-Iraqi military operation in the province of Diyala northeast of Baghdad for heavy civilian casualties caused by it.The Iraqi Islamic Party, headed by Vice President Tariq al-Hashimi, accused the U.S. troops and the Iraqi government of conducting “collective punishment” against residents of the city of Baquba, the capital of Diyala province.The party said in a statement that the U.S. forces and aircraft bombed several neighborhoods in western Baquba, causing more than 350 people dead, whose bodies are still under the debris. Calling for a halt to the “massacre,” the party highlighted the necessity to “distinguish between gunmen and innocent civilians.”

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