Thu, Aug 05, 2004 - Page 7 News List

More Iraqi personnel killed in latest attacks

CONTINUED VIOLENCE Seven members of security forces died in attacks targeting Iraqi police, while the US announced that six more of its soldiers had been killed

AP , BAGHDAD

A badly burned Iraqi National Guardsman lies in a hospital in Baquba, Iraq on Tuesday after being injured by a car bomb that exploded at a checkpoint manned by members of the Iraqi National Guard.

PHOTO: EPA

Insurgents killed seven Iraqi security personnel in a car bombing and other attacks, and the US military announced the deaths of six Americans, including four killed by guerrillas.

The American dead included two soldiers killed by a roadside bomb on Tuesday and two Marines who died after being wounded in fighting the day before. Two others died in non-combat-related incidents. The US deaths brought the number of US service members who have died since the beginning of military operations in Iraq to at least 919.

Also Tuesday, saboteurs set off a bomb at a key northern oil pipeline, sparking a fire and sending huge plumes of thick black smoke into the sky. The explosion had no immediate effect on exports, which had been halted for weeks from the north.

Iraqi Prime Minister Ayad Allawi blamed the continuing violence on "evil powers ... trying to stop Iraq's march toward safety."

"We expect that as Iraq's [security] capabilities increase, the crushing of these [armed] operations will increase,'' he said Tuesday.

In the city of Najaf, south of Baghdad, forces loyal to radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr were holding 18 police hostage as leverage to force authorities to release their comrades, a police official said Tuesday on condition of anonymity.

The abductions reflected increasing friction that has threatened a fragile truce that ended two months of fighting that began in April between al-Sadr's Mahdi Army militia and US troops. Marines and al-Sadr's militiamen engaged in a battle in Najaf on Monday that killed a woman.

Al-Sadr aides have accused police of targeting members of his Mahdi Army.

Najaf Governor Adnan al-Zurufi confirmed that a number of policemen were kidnapped; Ahmed al-Shaibany, an al-Sadr spokesman, denied any police were locked up in al-Sadr's office or any of his quarters.

The deadliest insurgent attack on Tuesday came in a car bombing north of the city of Baqoubah, when a truck raced toward an Iraqi checkpoint guarding Kharnabad Bridge, officials said.

The truck attempted to merge into a US military convoy heading toward the bridge, but a soldier driving one of the vehicles forced it off the road before it detonated, said Major Neal O'Brien, a US Army spokesman. No US troops were injured, he said.

The blast killed four members of the Iraqi National Guard and wounded five others, said Major-General Waleed Khaled Abdulsalam, Baqouba's police chief.

"A US convoy drove past us and just afterward there was an explosion,'" Corporal Motaz Abood, whose back, arms and face were covered in burns, said from his hospital bed.

In other violence, a roadside bomb attack early Tuesday killed Colonel Mouyad Mohammed Bashar, chief of al-Mamoun police station in Baghdad, along with another officer, officials said. A third officer was wounded in the blast.

Gunmen in the northern city of Mosul opened fire on a police station, killing one officer and injuring two others before fleeing, police chief Izzat Ibrahim said.

The pipeline attack came when saboteurs exploded a bomb on Tuesday alongside a pipeline that sends oil to Iraq's Beiji refinery as well as to Turkish port of Ceyhan, the main export line from Iraq's northern oil fields. The Ceyhan pipeline already has been idle for weeks due to constant attacks.

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