Car bombings in Baghdad, Mosul kill 14, mostly policemen and Kurdish militiamen

Saturday, December 4th 2004, 10:25 am
By: News On 6

BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) _ Suicide attackers carried out a string of car bombings against Iraqi policemen in Baghdad and Kurdish militiamen in the north, killing 14 people and wounding at least 59 on Saturday in the latest major assaults on Iraqi security forces and U.S. allies in the country.

Two U.S. soldiers were killed by roadside bombs Saturday, and two other Americans died in a suicide car bombing of their post near the Jordanian border the day before, the U.S. military said.

The attacks came after a day of increased violence Friday, when attacks in Baghdad and the north killed 30 Iraqis _ most of them policemen _ and two more American troops.

The commander of U.S. forces in Iraq acknowledged on Saturday that U.S.-trained Iraqi security forces, though increasing in number, are not yet up to the increasingly difficult task of keeping security during vital elections set for Jan. 30.

The U.S. military plans to increase its troop strength from 138,000 to about 150,000 by mid-January _ slightly more than during the 2003 invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein's regime _ in an attempt to keep order during the vote.

``It had been our hope that we would be able to have a combination of increases that mainly were Iraqi troops' increases,'' Gen. John Abizaid, head of U.S. Central Command, said at a regional security conference in Bahrain.

And while the Iraqi troops are larger in number than they used to be, those forces have to be seasoned more, trained more. So, it's necessary to bring more American forces,'' he said.

In Baghdad, insurgents unleashed two suicide car bombs nearly simultaneously Saturday morning at a police station just across the street from a checkpoint leading into the heavily fortified Green Zone, the seat of American and Iraqi power in Baghdad.

Bursts of automatic fire followed the thunderous detonation, which shook windows several hundred yards away in buildings on the opposite side of the Tigris River.

Six policemen and another person were killed in the blast, and 59 people were wounded, hospital officials said.

Adel Hassan, a policeman who survived the attack with head injuries, said at a hospital crammed with victims that a ``suicide car bomber sped into our place (the police station) ... and then there was an explosion.''

In the northern city of Mosul, a suicide bomber pulled his explosive-laden vehicle alongside a bus bringing Kurdish peshmerga fighters into the city. The attacker detonated the blast, killing seven militiamen from the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, said Saadi Ahmed, a PUK official.

The militiamen were being brought in from the mainly Kurdish city of Irbil in order to protect PUK offices in Mosul. U.S. and Iraqi forces have been battling insurgents who staged an uprising in the city last month, attacking police stations and offices of the Kurds, who are close U.S. allies.

In fierce fighting in the city on Friday, gunmen tried to storm four police stations but were repelled, the U.S. military said. About 70 guerrillas also ambush a U.S. patrol with roadside bombs, rocket-propelled grenades and small-arms fire. After regrouping, U.S. and Iraqi forces struck back on insurgent positions, killing more than two dozen fighters, the military said.

The interim government's security forces are regular targets for insurgents, who have been ramping up attacks ahead of scheduled Jan. 30 elections. Hundreds of police officers and members of the Iraqi National Guard have been killed in strikes by insurgents, who regard the police as collaborators with foreign occupiers.

The latest attacks, however, were particularly audacious and sent a clear message that the insurgents can strike wherever they choose. The police station hit Saturday was just yards from the seat of American and Iraqi power in the country. On Friday, 11 carloads of gunmen attacked a police station, killing 16 policemen, on highway to Baghdad's international airport, which has been extremely dangerous despite frequent patrols by U.S. troops.

Meanwhile, two American soldiers were killed Saturday by roadside bombs _ one in eastern Baghdad that wounded five other Americans, the other in the town of Ghalabiyah, 6 miles west of the insurgent hotbed of Baqouba, north of Baghdad, the military said.

A suicide car bomb hit an American forward operating base near Iraq's border with Jordan on Friday, killing two U.S. service members, the U.S. command said Saturday. A Marine spokesman said the attack had been directed at members of the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force.

Iraq closed its Karameh border crossing into Jordan until further notice, Jordanian officials said Saturday.

The killings _ along with two Americans killed in roadside bombs in Baghdad and Kirkuk on Friday _ brought the number of U.S. military members to have died since the war began in March 2003 to at least 1,269, according to an Associated Press count.

Police in the northern city of Samarra also came under mortar and gun attacks that wounded four officers Saturday, according to police Maj. Sadoon Ahmed Matroud.

The visiting NATO commander expressed surprise Friday that Iraq's insurgency had proven so resilient by comparison with Afghanistan, where he said security has improved significantly.

``At the beginning I would have projected the opposite, with Iraq coming along faster,'' said U.S. Gen. James Jones, the supreme allied commander in Europe.

In Kirkuk, U.S. soldiers killed an Iraqi driver who didn't slow down at a checkpoint set up following a rocket propelled grenade attack on a liquor store, Iraqi police and the U.S. military said Saturday.

An investigation has been launched into the killing, which involved soldiers from the 1st Infantry Division's 1st Battalion, 22nd Infantry Regiment.