Sun, Sep 25, 2005 - Page 7 News List

Suicide attacks hit Iraqi checkpoint, minibus


A suicide car bomb exploded near an Iraqi army checkpoint in Baghdad yesterday, destroying several cars and sending a column of smoke into the air, witnesses said.

There were no immediate reports of any casualties in the attack, which occurred near a restaurant on a square in the Karrada district of the capital. Iraqi police and the army sealed off the area.

Television pictures showed several police cars and ambulances at the scene, with sirens wailing.

The blast followed an attack on Friday in which a suicide bomber blew himself up at a bus station killing at least five people and wounding 17, police said.

Separately, a US soldier was killed by a roadside bomb southeast of Baghdad, the US military said yesterday.

The death raises to 1,911 the number of US troops to have died in Iraq since the start of the war.

Meanwhile, heavy fighting has broken out in the Euphrates River city of Ramadi, police and hospital officials said, and the US military reported the deaths of two more soldiers around the militant stronghold, the scene of nearly one-quarter of 29 American deaths this month.

In Baghdad, a suicide bomber on a public minibus set off an explosives belt on Friday as the vehicle approached a busy terminal Friday, killing at least five people and wounding eight, police said. Elsewhere in the capital, a roadside bomb killed a US Army soldier whose convoy was patrolling southeastern Baghdad Friday night.

Gunmen also killed a member of the commission charged with ensuring former members of Saddam Hussein's Baathist regime are banned from the Iraqi government, police said. Thirteen commission members have been killed since it was created two years ago.

The US military declined to say if it was conducting a large offensive against Ramadi, but police and residents have reported heavy fighting there during the past week. Seven service members have died in or near the city since Sept. 1.

"There are 30 to 40 battalion-level operations going on across Iraq on any given day," said Lieutenant Colonel Steven Boylan, a US military spokesman in Baghdad. "What you are seeing is the pattern of operations that we have been conducting almost every day here."

The latest US military fatalities there occurred Thursday when two soldiers were killed, one by a roadside bombing between Ramadi and Fallujah, the other in a gunbattle in Ramadi, 110km west of Baghdad.

Ramadi police Captain Nasir Al-Alousi said American forces airlifted equipment into the city stadium before dawn Friday. He said clashes erupted in that area and spread to an industrial zone after sunrise, continuing until at least midday.

Dr. Omar al-Rawi at Ramadi General Hospital said two people were killed and eight wounded in the fighting. Police Lieutenant Mohammed Tirbas Al-Obaidi said a roadside bomb destroyed an American armored vehicle, but it was impossible to say if there were casualties because US forces blocked the area.

The deadliest day for US forces in Ramadi this month was on Monday, when four soldiers attached to the Marines died in two roadside bombings.

Militants have used Ramadi as a stronghold since the start of the insurgency two years ago. The city of about 300,000 is the capital of Anbar province, which fans out west from Baghdad to the Saudi, Jordanian and Syrian borders.

It includes much of the Sunni heartland, where residents lived a relatively privileged life under Saddam, a Sunni. Since Saddam's ouster by the US-led coalition, the insurgency has grown in strength. At one time or another, militants have controlled most of the major population centers along the Euphrates, which flows southwest through the province from the Syrian border toward Baghdad.

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