Fri, Jun 25, 2004 - Page 1 News List

At least 75 die in bloody fighting in Iraq

REUTERS , BAGHDAD

A Cobra helicopter gunship, left. and UH-1 Huey search for insurgents after a US Marine patrol was attacked near Fallujah yesterday.

PHOTO: REUTERS

Rebels bent on disrupting a handover to Iraqi rule bloodied five cities on Thursday with coordinated assaults on local security forces in which about 75 people, including three US soldiers, were killed.

The violence in Baqubah, Fallujah, Ramadi, Mosul and Baghdad intensified a sustained campaign by Iraqi insurgents and foreign militants to sabotage Iraq's formal transition from US-led occupation to an interim government in six days' time.

More than 200 people were wounded.

In Mosul, 390km north of Baghdad, multiple car bombings on police buildings rocked the city, killing at least 44 people and wounding 216, the Health Ministry said.

Fighting in Anbar province, which includes Fallujah and Ramadi, killed at least nine people and wounded 27. Clashes around Baquba killed 13 and wounded 15, the ministry said.

At least seven large explosions shook Mosul and local television ordered residents to stay at home. Police blocked off all major roads and announced a dusk-to-dawn curfew.

Apart from the Iraqi casualties, the US military said an American soldier had been killed and three wounded in the blasts. It said a security guard was also killed.

Gunfire rattled across Mosul as insurgents fought running battles with US troops and Iraqi police.

At least four members of Iraq's national guard were killed and two civilians wounded by a car bomb blast in southern Baghdad, an officer in the paramilitary force said. Hospital sources said five people were killed in the blast.

Scores of black-clad gunmen, some claiming loyalty to Jordanian militant Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, attacked a police station and other government buildings in Baquba, 60km northwest of Baghdad, in a dawn assault.

A US military spokesman said two American soldiers had been killed in an ambush. US forces had responded with air strikes after gunmen captured the civic centre and attacked another government building. Two insurgents were killed.

Fierce clashes raged for two hours between US Marines and rebels in Fallujah, west of Baghdad, and US planes dropped 500-pound bombs on guerrilla positions. The Marines later withdrew.

A US Cobra helicopter was shot down during the Fallujah fighting but the crew walked away unhurt, Marines said.

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