Sat, Jul 10, 2004 - Page 7 News List

Attack in Samarra kills nine

IRAQI UNREST A car bombing, mortar barrage and gunbattles left as many as 44 people wounded on Thursday;more hostages were seized

AP AND AFP , Baghdad and Ramidi

Members of the Iraqi resistance during a foot patrol late Thursday, in the town of Samarra. Five US soldiers and one Iraqi guard were killed in a mortar attack on the town's National Guard headquarters.

PHOTO: EPA

Iraqi insurgents detonated a car bomb and then hammered a military headquarters in the city of Samarra with a massive mortar barrage on Thursday, leveling the building and killing five US soldiers and one Iraqi guardsman, the US military said.

American troops -- backed by attack helicopters -- then fanned out through the city to hunt down the attackers in clashes that lasted into late Thursday afternoon. Tanks deployed in the streets. Smoke rose above a local mosque.

The violence also killed three civilians, medical officials said. As many as 44 people were wounded, including 20 US soldiers and four Iraqi guardsmen, the military and hospital officials said.

About 10:30am Thursday, Iraqi insurgents lashed out at US forces in Samarra, a hotbed of anti-coalition resistance 95km north of Baghdad, said Major Neal O'Brien, the spokesman for the 1st Infantry Division.

One witness, Khalid Salih, said the gate of the headquarters building shared by US forces and their Iraqi National Guard allies was open when a sport utility vehicle with a car bomb drove in.

``I saw a GMC entering into the base and immediately exploding,'' he said.

Insurgents then launched 38 mortars at the headquarters, destroying the building, O'Brien said. Some of the rounds landed in surrounding residential neighborhoods.

About 25 minutes after the mortar attack -- once radar determined where it had originated -- US soldiers responded with four mortar rounds of their own.

American troops moved through the streets to flush out the insurgents, and four fighters shot at the soldiers before taking refuge in a building, O'Brien said. US helicopters swooped in and attacked with Hellfire missiles, killing the four attackers.

Elsewhere, four large explosions were heard at an Iraqi base in the town of Mishahda, 40km north of Baghdad. Volleys of gunfire broke out immediately afterward. US military officials had no immediate comment.

Meanwhile, an explosion killed former senior Baath party official, Ali Abbas Hassan, as he left his textile factory in Baghdad, said police Lt. Anmar Yassin. Authorities didn't know the cause of the explosion.

Elsewhere, explosions were heard in Fallujah, the Sunni city considered to be a safe haven for militants seeking to attack US and Iraqi forces. Several airstrikes have been launched at suspected safehouses believed linked to Jordanian-born militant Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.

Early yesterday, the pan-Arab television network al Jazeera broadcast a video showing Zarqawi's Tawhid and Jihad group threatening to execute two Bulgarian hostages if the US military did not release all Iraqi detainees within 24 hours.

The video showed the two unidentified Bulgarians sitting with their hands cuffed, flanked by three masked, armed men. The Foreign Ministry in Sofia later identified them as Ivaylo Kepov and Georgi Lazov, who were in Iraq working as truck drivers for a private company.

The group had previously claimed responsibility for the beheading of US businessman Nicholas Berg and South Korean translator Kim Sun-il.

An Iraqi interpreter working with US forces was also taken hostage in Ramadi, west of Baghdad, a police officer said yesterday.

Omar Abdel Jabbar was forced into a car at gun point after armed men came to his house in the town, 100km west of Baghdad, at about 11 pm on Thursday, said the officer on condition of anonymity.

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