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NSN Iraq Daily Update 1/29/08

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DEADLY FIGHTING CONTINUES IN NORTHERN IRAQ

Five U.S. soldiers killed in Mosul. A U.S. military convoy came under gunfire in the northern city of Mosul on Monday and then was hit by a roadside bomb that killed five U.S. soldiers. The city of Mosul, about 225 miles northwest of Baghdad, has become a source of growing concern for U.S. and Iraqi officials in recent weeks because they believe insurgents are massing there after fleeing more heavily patrolled areas such as Baghdad and Anbar provinces. The insurgents have set up base camps and stockpiled weapons in the surrounding countryside and desert. In response, U.S. military officials said that over the next few months there would be a gradual increase in Iraqi security forces and more frequent combat operations in the region. The attack raised the U.S. military's reported death toll for January to 36, an increase over the 23 troops killed in December. [Washington Post, 1/29/08]

RECONSTRUCTION IS CONSISTENTLY BEING MISMANAGED

U.S. builder's failures found to be even more widespread. Rebuilding failures by American construction company Parsons, one of the most heavily criticized companies working in Iraq, were much more widespread than previously disclosed, according to a report released Monday by a federal oversight agency. The report by the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction examined nearly 200 Parsons construction projects contained in 11 major job orders that were part of a rebuilding contract. The new report finds that 8 of the 11 rebuilding orders were terminated by the United States before they were completed, for reasons including weak contract oversight, unrealistic schedules, a failure to report problems in a timely fashion and poor supervision by the United States Army Corps of Engineers, which managed the contracts. The total cost of the work to the U.S. was $365 million. [NY Times, 1/29/08]

IRAQ CONTINUES TO FEUD OVER NATURAL RESOURCES

Iraq cuts off oil supplies to South Korea. Iraq has stopped crude oil exports to South Korea in protest at an exploration deal involving Korean firms in Iraqi Kurdistan, officials said Tuesday. On January 1, Iraq suspended an annual contract with a South Korean refiner, SK Energy, the energy ministry said. A consortium of South Korean firms including SK Energy signed a deal in November with the Kurdish government fields in northern Iraq, estimated to hold 500 million barrels of crude oil. Iraq has demanded that the consortium led by state-run Korea National Oil Corp cancel the exploration project. The corporation has refused to abandon the deal. Iraq has been at odds with regional governments over control of oil resources. [AFP, 1/29/08]

SECURITY CONTRACTORS RECRUIT FROM THE 3RD WORLD, TARGETING THOSE WITH FEW OPPORTUNITIES

Several thousand Latin Americans have taken jobs with U.S. contractors as security guards in Iraq and Afghanistan. The primary recruiter is Triple Canopy, a Virginia-based firm founded by U.S. Special Forces and Delta Force veterans. Lured by the prospect of earning about $1,000 a month, about 1,200 Peruvians are in Iraq, mostly guarding sites in Baghdad's Green Zone. Chileans, Colombians, Salvadorans and Hondurans have also served as part of the polyglot assemblage providing "conflict labor" in U.S. war zones. Although most appear to have returned to Latin America safely and with enough cash to buy houses, taxis and businesses, others have been unlucky: seriously injured in Iraq and left to negotiate a labyrinthine and what many term an inadequate U.S. insurance system. While taking a break from his current $200 a month job, which is inadequate to provide for his family, one former contractor says, "I'd rather die in a war than die of hunger in my own country." [LA Times, 1/28/09]

GRUESOME FIND IN DIYALA PROVINCE

Nine bodies and 10 severed heads have been discovered near Miqdadiya, north-east of Baghdad. The 19 victims were all male and some had died in recent days, said a Diyala province police spokesman. The nine intact bodies were handcuffed and had been shot dead. Diyala province is where US and Iraqi forces have been carrying out major operations against Sunni militants. Separately on Tuesday, two people were killed and about 20 were wounded in a series of bomb blasts in Baghdad. In the northern city of Mosul, where five US soldiers were killed on Monday, a suicide bomber targeting a US patrol injured 10 Iraqis. [BBC, 1/29/08]