Suicide car bomber kills seven Iraqi security officers
Associated Press Writer
BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) – A suicide bomber blew up a car Monday at a police checkpoint in western Iraq, killing seven government security force members and injuring nine in the latest strike against the country’s fledgling police and National Guard troops, Iraqi officials said.
Also Monday, two American soldiers were killed and three wounded in a roadside bomb explosion in northwestern Baghdad, the U.S. command said. The victims were members of the U.S. Army’s Task Force Baghdad, which is in charge of security in the capital.
Separately, one U.S. soldier died and two were injured in a vehicle accident 30 miles northwest of the town of Kut in eastern Iraq, the military said.
U.S. forces immediately sealed off the road after the insurgent attack against Iraqi security forces in Baghdadi, 120 miles northwest of the capital, police Lt. Mohammed al-Fehdawi said.
A hospital official there, Hatim Ahmed, confirmed seven police and Iraqi National Guard members were killed and nine were wounded. Dozens of Iraqi security forces have died in attacks throughout the country following the U.S.-led assault on Fallujah earlier this month.
Elsewhere, gunmen stormed a police station west of the city of Samarra late Sunday, a spokesman said. The attackers, who faced no opposition, looted the armory and commandeered several police cars before leaving the area.
U.S. troops arrived at the station Monday morning and arrested two dozen people, the policeman said.
In Basra, British and Iraqi troops were deployed around the headquarters of the Iraqi National Guard southern regional headquarters after the chief staff, Brig. Gen. Diaa al-Kadhimi, refused to accept an order from Baghdad to remove himself from his post, Iraqi officials said.
Al-Kadhimi was to have been replaced by the national guard chief in Amarah, Salah al-Maliki. The standoff was continuing Monday afternoon.
South of Baghdad, U.S. and Iraqi forces launched raids Sunday that killed 17 suspected insurgents, Iraqi police said. The raids included a dawn speedboat assault by U.S. Marines and British and Iraqi troops on suspected insurgent hideouts along the Euphrates River, British media reported.
The speedboat assault was the biggest operation of its kind so far in Iraq, with 130 troops racing up the Euphrates in boats armed with machine guns and grenade launchers, according to the British reports.
Troops were targeting an area south of Baghdad, where Sunni insurgents have taken control of a string of towns and cities between the capital and the Shiite Muslim shrines of Najaf and Karbala.
However, the raid produced only a few small weapons caches and documents believed buried by a Saddam Hussein loyalist, British media said.
U.S. Marines, Iraqi commandos and British troops launched an offensive known as “Operation Plymouth Rock” in the area last Tuesday as a follow-up to the assault on Fallujah.
The British Embassy on Monday banned its staff from traveling on the highway between Baghdad and the city’s international airport due to a surge of attacks on the vital thoroughfare.
The travel warning issued by the British Foreign Office also urged Britons to defer even essential travel to Iraq due to deteriorating security. Previously, it advised against all but essential travel to Iraq.
On Sunday, a statement posted on an Islamist Web site in the name of al-Qaida in Iraq, led by Jordanian terror mastermind Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, claimed responsibility for killing 17 members of Iraq’s security forces and a Kurdish militiaman in Mosul, where insurgents rose up this month in support of guerrillas facing a U.S.-led assault in Fallujah.
The claim could not be independently verified but the style of writing appeared similar to other statements by al-Zarqawi’s group, which is responsible for numerous car bombings and beheadings of foreign hostages in Iraq.
At least 50 people have been killed in Mosul in the past 10 days. Most of the victims are believed to have been supporters of Iraq’s interim government or members of its fledgling security forces.
Separately, al-Zarqawi’s group claimed it detonated a car bomb near a U.S. military convoy in the Hamam al-Alil area, near Mosul. It said the blast destroyed an armored vehicle and damaged another.
Although the claims were not verifiable, they raised fears that al-Zarqawi’s organization had spread to Mosul, Iraq’s third-largest city, 225 miles north of Baghdad. At least 43 suspected insurgents have been arrested as part of an ongoing operation to re-establish control of Mosul, a military statement said.
Al-Zarqawi’s group, formerly known as Tawhid and Jihad, was believed to have been headquartered in Fallujah, the Sunni Arab insurgent bastion 40 miles west of Baghdad, before U.S. and Iraqi forces overran the city in an assault that began Nov. 8.
Al-Zarqawi and the city’s two major Iraqi insurgent leaders, Sheik Abdullah al-Janabi and Omar Hadid, apparently escaped and remain at large. Before the assault, U.S. intelligence officers speculated that al-Zarqawi would try to relocate to Mosul if he lost his base in Fallujah.
Meanwhile, the governor of Iraq’s Shiite-dominated Najaf province said Monday that police had arrested his own security chief after uncovering an alleged plot to assassinate top regional officials – including the governor himself.
The aide, Ali al-Sheibani, was detained late Sunday, Gov. Adnan al-Zurufi told reporters.