Sun, Jul 11, 2004 - Page 7 News List

Insurgents target gas pipeline near Kirkuk

SMALL PULLOUT The Philippines announced it would withdraw its 51-member peacekeeping unit as it waited to hear the fate of a Filipino truck driver being held hostage

AFP AND AP , KIRKUK, IRAQ AND MANILA

A relative places an inscription on a headstone of Uday Raad, a member of Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr 's Mehdi Army, who was killed in recent clashes with US troops in Najaf on Friday. Al-Sadr has denounced the new interim Iraqi government and pledged to continue resisting ``the occupation.''

PHOTO: REUTERS

Four Iraqis, including two alleged members of a gang, were killed yesterday in different incidents, while insurgents again targeted a gas pipeline near the northern oil city of Kirkuk.

There was no word on the fate of two Bulgarian truck drivers and a Filipino truck driver kidnapped by insurgents earlier in the week and threatened with beheading. The deadline set by the insurgents was yesterday.

Officials in the Philippines said the country's small peacekeeping contingent in Iraq will be withdrawn when its current stint ends Aug. 20.

The withdrawal announcement appeared to be deliberately ambiguous, representing the fine line that the Philippines is walking to obtain its hostage's release while remaining one of Washington's closest supporters of the global war on terrorism.

In the ethnic tinderbox of Kirkuk, unknown assailants opened fire at about 9:00am at the offices of the predominantly Arab Union of Farming Cooperatives killing a guard, according to Iraqi police Major Burhan Taib. A movie theater, owned by a Turkmen businessman, was burnt to the ground in an attack by unknown individuals at about 4am, said police Colonel Adel Ibrahim.

Kirkuk has seen tension and violence among it's Arab, Kurd, Turkmen and Christian population.

A pipeline connecting the city's gas fields with the Beiji power plants to the west was attacked with an improvised explosive device at about 6:30am, setting a section of less than a meter on fire, according to Ahmed al-Hassan, head of security at the Northern Gas Co. He said the pipeline was shut as the fire was being put out.

The attack comes five days after another pipeline in the gas network connecting power plants and a gas canister factory north of Baghdad was sabotaged.

Meanwhile, in the Sunni-stronghold of Ramadi, west of Baghdad, US Marines said they shot dead two memebers of an armed gang who attacked them yesterday, while a hospital official reported that five Iraqis had been wounded.

"There was a clash at approximately 6:15am today near a taxi stop in Ramadi between US Marines and approximately seven enemy fighters dressed in black," said a Marine spokesman.

"Those seven fired on the Marines from the taxi stop. The Marines returned fire, killing two of the attackers and seized the vehicle they used, which had a machine gun mounted on the back," he said.

Meanwhile, two young brothers killed in a mortar attack in central Baghdad late Friday were mourned by their family. The parents of Rami, four, and Sami Saad, six, sobbed and screamed as the boys' wooden coffins were laid out at the Holy Family Chaldean church in the Karrada neighborhood. Tearful children held up photographs of the boys, who were playing in front of their home when mortar rounds struck the nearby Sadeer Hotel.

In Manila, a spokesman for President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo announced with pullout of the 51-strong contingent in Iraq.

"Our humanitarian contingent is scheduled to return on Aug. 20," spokesman Ignacio Bunye said. "Our future actions shall be guided by the UN Security Council decision as embodied in Resolution 1546, which defines the role of the UN and its member states in the future of Iraq."

Resolution 1546 specifies that Iraq can request "the continued presence of the multinational force and setting out its tasks."

The decision was announced just moments before Arab television station al Jazeera showed a video of Angelo dela Cruz appealing to President Arroyo to give in to his captors' demand.

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