BAGHDAD, Iraq – Two mortar shells slammed into a coffee shop in a Shiite neighborhood Tuesday in Baghdad, killing at least 14 people and wounding 16 others, police said.
The late night attack on the Shiite al-Qreiaat neighborhood near the heavily Shiite Kazimiyah district occurred at 9:40 p.m., according to police 1st Lt. Bilal Ali Majid.
Police said the attack appeared to have been in response to mortar fire on the Sunni neighborhood of Azamiyah across the Tigris River earlier in the day that killed seven people and wounded 25.
Authorities also reported finding the bullet-riddled bodies of a dozen apparent death squad victims floating in the Tigris River south of Baghdad, all blindfolded and bound at the wrists and ankles.
Iraq's Interior Ministry said that it has charged 57 members of the Iraqi police, including a general, in the alleged torture of hundreds of detainees at a prison in eastern Baghdad.
Torture is considered widespread among the poorly trained police force, which has suffered heavy losses at the hands of Sunni insurgents and criminal gangs, but Tuesday's announcement marked the first time the government has sought charges. Iraqi police are accused of close ties to the Shiite death squads whose daily abductions and killings fuel the sectarian violence convulsing the country.
Some officers on the Shiite-dominated police force were accused of abetting the violence by allowing the gunmen to violate curfews and pass through checkpoints.
The concerns were underscored by the discovery of a police torture chamber in Baghdad last year, and by the apparent complicity of police in a mass kidnapping of Sunni workers that prompted authorities to take an entire police brigade out of service for retraining.
Among those charged in the torture at Site No. 4, the prison in eastern Baghdad, were a general, 19 officers, 20 noncommissioned officers and 17 patrolmen or civilian employees.
Their names were withheld, but ministry spokesman Brig. Abdel-Karim Khalaf said the general would face trial on criminal charges as well as administrative punishment.
Khalaf did not specify what the administrative punishment would be, nor would he give details about specific abuses or what sentences the policemen could receive if found guilty.
"All of these people will stand trial and the court will decide their fate," Khalaf said.
Iraq's main Sunni political party issued a statement accusing "criminal militias" of being behind the torching of two Sunni mosques in western Baghdad on Sunday.
"We demand the government at least issue a statement condemning such crimes, as it does when other places are attacked," the Iraqi Islamic Party said.
The U.S. military said a Baghdad-based soldier was killed by a roadside bomb on Monday, bringing the death toll among U.S. troops this month to 19. A British soldier was killed in an attack Monday on a base in the southern city of Basra, the first British casualty this month.
The U.S. military said this month's American casualties included two lieutenant colonels, among the highest ranking soldiers to die in Iraq since the 2003 invasion.
Lt. Col. Eric J. Kruger, 40, was killed Thursday by a roadside bomb along with Lt. Col. Paul J. Finken, 40, and Staff Sgt. Joseph A. Gage, 28. All three men were riding in a Humvee in eastern Baghdad.
In other violence reported by official, six Iraqi soldiers died in sniper attacks and a roadside bombing in Karmah, 50 miles west of Baghdad.