Four killed by mortar attack in Baghdad’s Green Zone |

Four killed by mortar attack in Baghdad’s Green Zone

Associated Press Writer

US soldiers patrol in Fallujah, Iraq, Friday Nov. 26 2004. In Fallujah, insurgents ambushed U.S. troops as they entered a home during house-to-house searches in the former rebel bastion, killing two Marines and wounding three others, the U.S. military said Friday. (AP Photo/Hadi Mizban)

BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) – A mortar attack killed four employees of a British security firm and wounded at least 12 in Baghdad’s Green Zone, a fortified area that houses the U.S. and Iraqi leadership, the company and British officials said Friday. An extremist group that claimed the August killings of 12 Nepalese workers said in a Web posting it was behind the attack.

In Fallujah, insurgents ambushed U.S. troops as they entered a home during house-to-house searches in the former rebel bastion, killing two Marines and wounding three others, the U.S. military said Friday.

Meanwhile, resistance to holding the Jan. 30 elections grew Friday when 17 political parties demanded postponing the vote for at least six months until the government is capable of securing polling places.

Britain’s Foreign Office said the four security workers for London-based Global Risk Strategies killed in Baghdad were former Gurkhas, renowned Nepalese soldiers.

“The mortar landed in their camp,” said a Foreign Office official on condition of anonymity

In a Web site posting, the extremist Ansar al-Sunnah Army claimed responsibility for the attack. The same group claimed responsibility for killing 12 Nepalese construction workers last August.

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Tim J. O’Brien, spokesman for Global Risk Strategies, said the attack was on Thursday, when multiple explosions were heard and black smoke was seen rising from the fortified zone on the western bank of the Tigris River.

“There was an incident yesterday. We lost four people and had 12 to 15 who were injured,” he said. “We can’t confirm what this incident actually was until we go through internal investigations.”

O’Brien declined to identify the victims.

Global Risk Strategies is a London-based firm that provides security in countries including Iraq and Afghanistan.

In Fallujah, Lt. Gen. John F. Sattler, commanding general of the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force, said the Marines ambushed Thursday by insurgents when searching a home responded with gunfire, killing three rebels hiding inside.

U.S. troops are conducting clearing operations after a massive weeklong U.S.-led assault that began Nov. 8.

“We will continue to clear out houses till every one is secure. We’ve taken more and more of their safe houses. They’re running out of places to hide,” he said.

Sattler vowed the city 40 miles west of Baghdad will be safe in time for next January’s nationwide elections.

Navy Secretary Gordon R. England warned Friday of more violence ahead of the country’s nationwide elections but said U.S. and Iraqi forces will prevail in securing the vote.

“There will be efforts to disrupt the elections,” England said on a visit to Marines at a camp outside Fallujah. “The insurgents don’t want the elections to be held and certainly not that they be successful. But we will prevail. We will provide the necessary stability.”

But the instability in Iraq has cast doubt on the feasibility of holding elections in January.

The parties demanding that elections be delayed were mostly Sunni Arab, Kurdish and secular groups.

Parties of the majority Shiite community strongly support holding the elections on time but there is widespread doubt within the minority Sunni community because of unrest in Sunni regions of central and northern Iraq.

Sunni clerics from the Association of Muslim Scholars have called on Sunnis to boycott the election to protest the U.S.-led assault Fallujah.

A widespread boycott by the Sunni community could deny the elected parliament and government the legitimacy that U.S. and Iraqi authorities believe is necessary to help bring stability to Iraq and curb the insurgency.

Mohsen Abdul Hamid, leader of the Iraqi Islamic Party, said that delaying the election was necessary because of “threats facing national unity, and fears of inciting sectarian tensions if a certain sect was excluded from the elections,” referring to the Sunnis.

Other politicians said the government was incapable of protecting voters from terror attacks if they tried to cast ballots.

In the northern city of Mosul, the site of a mass insurgent uprising in apparent support of Fallujah guerrillas following the assault on that rebel stronghold, twenty-one have been found in the past two days in and around the area, the U.S. military said Friday. In all, 41 corpses have been discovered in the past week.

U.S. and Iraqi forces were sent in to retake parts of Mosul but insurgents have managed to hit back.

“It’s a continued campaign of threats, intimidation and murder by insurgents to spread fear into the public. Their campaign has been directed at what appears to be Iraqi security forces,” said Lt. Col. Paul Hastings, a spokesman with Task Force Olympia.

Eleven of the 41 bodies found around Mosul have been identified as members of the Iraqi security forces. The others have not been identified. Six were found Friday and 15 were discovered the day before, U.S. officials said.

Twenty other bodies have been found in Mosul since Nov. 18. At least 10 of the bodies – nine of them shot execution-style – belonged to the Iraqi regular army, based at the al-Kisik military base about 31 miles west of Mosul, near Tal Afar. Four of the bodies were decapitated.

“I cannot speak to the motive or the level of detail and planning. I just know that since the uprising, … there’s been accelerated and very deliberate attacks on Iraqi security forces,” Hastings said.

U.S. and Iraqi troops were hit by mortars, rocket-propelled grenades and small arms fire as they were retrieving two of the bodies found Thursday, according to Lt. Col. Eric Kurilla of the Army’s 1st Battalion, 24th Infantry Regiment.

The U.S. military spotted at least one team of insurgents firing at them. One Iraqi National Guardsman suffered minor injuries, according to Kurilla.

Iraqi security forces in Mosul arrested four people Thursday night accused of providing money and information to insurgents, officials said Friday.

One of the four is “organizationally close to (Jordanian terrorist Abu Musab) al-Zarqawi’s elements and has contacts with elements in areas near Fallujah,” said Maj. Gen. Rashid Feleih, commander of a special Interior Ministry force sent from Baghdad,

On Thursday, National Security Adviser Qassem Dawoud said a key lieutenant to al-Zarqawi had been captured a few days ago in Mosul, identifying him only as Abu Saeed.

Iraqi officials have said that al-Zarqawi, along with other insurgent leaders, had escaped from Fallujah during the U.S.-led assault earlier in the month. Al-Zarqawi heads an al-Qaida linked terror group believed responsible for numerous car bombings and beheadings of foreign hostages.

In the southern city of Basra, Iraqi forces arrested four insurgents after a gunfight in a hotel. The four men told Iraqi officials they were planning attacks in southern Basra, which is the headquarters for some 8,500 British troops, in an attempt to relieve the U.S. military pressure on Fallujah.

Near the northern city of Kirkuk, gunmen attacked a police station in Rashad Thursday night, killing one policeman and injuring three, police said Friday.

Gunmen manning a fake checkpoint on a road south of Baghdad kidnapped an Iraqi journalist working for a local paper, his editor in chief said.

Raad Beraiej al-Azzawi, the No. 3 man at Sada Wasit newspaper was abducted as he was traveling on a road south of Baghdad about 25 miles west of Kut, said editor Ayad al-Tamimi. Kut is about 100 miles southeast of Baghdad.

Al-Azzawi was a critic of the former Saddam Hussein regime and was imprisoned when Saddam was in power.