Attacks on Iraqi police, US-backed patrols kill 7
Clashes erupt in villages north of capital
BAGHDAD - A series of attacks on Iraqi police and volunteer patrols killed at least seven people in Baghdad and neighboring provinces yesterday, including Diyala, where clashes erupted in villages ringing the provincial capital, officials said.
The US military also announced the death of an American soldier shot Friday in northern Ninevah Province.
Early yesterday in eastern Baghdad, a pair of synchronized roadside bombs targeted a passing police patrol, killing two civilians. The second bomb detonated about two minutes after the first, hitting bystanders who had gathered at the site, a police officer said, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to release details of the attack.
In the northern Baghdad neighborhood of Azamiyah, a member of a US-backed volunteer patrol was killed by an explosives-rigged bag he received from a stranger who claimed to have found it in the street, according to Iraqi Army Colonel Riadh al-Samaraie. The explosion wounded a second security volunteer, Samaraie said.
Sunnis have been turning against Al Qaeda in significant numbers and signing up for the volunteer security forces - partly in disgust at the militant group's brutal tactics, and partly to seek US protection against what they see as government-backed Shi'ite militias.
US officials say the volunteers now number about 72,000 nationwide, and as their numbers grow, they are increasingly targeted.
In southern Baghdad, gunmen attacked a checkpoint manned by another of the anti-Qaeda groups, and three of the volunteers were wounded, police said. At a similar roadblock in Salahuddin Province, about 55 miles north of the capital, gunmen in a passing car opened fire on the volunteers, killing one, police said.
And in neighboring Diyala, which has suffered from repeated Al Qaeda attacks, the provincial deputy police chief resigned on Friday after Al Qaeda abducted his son and threatened to kill him. Brigadier General Ayad Ismael quit in hopes that his son - kidnapped two weeks ago - would be freed, said Diyala police Brigadier General Khudhayer al-Timimi.
Police officials in Ismael's hometown of Kanan, who spoke on condition of anonymity in the town heavily infiltrated by militants from Al Qaeda in Iraq, said the terror group was warning villagers in surrounding areas not to let their sons join Iraqi security forces.
People on the outskirts of Kanan have left for the town center, hoping for protection from police and the local anti-Qaeda groups, also known as "awakening councils." Members of the awakening councils, including some former extremists, are paid about $300 a month by the US military to conduct neighborhood watches.
Fighting erupted yesterday in Diyala villages outside Baqubah, beginning when gunmen attacked a police checkpoint nine miles north of the provincial capital, killing three officers, a police official said. The onslaught lasted 90 minutes, until reinforcements arrived, the official said. There were also clashes about 7 miles south of Baqubah between Al Qaeda militants and members of the 1920 Revolution Brigades, former insurgents who joined the Sunni revolt against Al Qaeda, a police officer said. The officer said the fighting lasted about an hour and casualties were unknown.
Iraqi security forces also attacked Qaeda militants west of Baqubah, an army officer said. In central and northern Iraq, the US military said operations Friday targeting Al Qaeda led to the capture of 18 suspects and left four militants dead.
Near Iskandariyah, about 30 miles south of Baghdad, Iraqi and American officials launched a major operation against Al Qaeda and weapons smugglers, destroying two buildings used to store roadside bomb materials, the military said. And 50 miles farther south, in the overwhelmingly Shi'ite city of Diwaniyah, a former police chief and a police colonel were detained and accused of helping terrorists and militias in the region, Diwaniyah police said.
This weekend, British forces will hand over control of Basra Province to Iraqi security forces, but the action will have a limited effect on security in Iraq's biggest oil region because rival Shi'ite warlords and local officials have been wielding the real power in the area.