Suicide bomber kills 10 in Samarra, as 15 others die in Iraq’s spiraling violence
BAGHDAD, Iraq – A suicide truck bomber struck the provincial headquarters of an Iraqi police commando force north of Baghdad on Monday, killing at least 10 troops and wounding 18 others, police said.Iraqi and U.S. forces also raided a Shiite militia stronghold in Baghdad early Monday, triggering a gunbattle that left three people dead, while 12 people were killed in other attacks, including five in a drive-by shooting against a barbershop.The truck carrying apples and bananas drove through razor-wire barricades around the two-story building of the Interior Ministry’s police commandos, located near an intersection in central Samarra, police Capt. Laith Mohammed said.He said 10 commandos were killed and eight were wounded. Ten civilians were also injured.The building was virtually leveled, said policeman Mohammed Ali, who went to the scene with ambulances after the attack. He said three houses nearby were severely damaged and three cars were destroyed.U.S. forces sealed off the area and rescue workers dug through the rubble.Samarra, 60 miles north of Baghdad, was the site of a bomb attack that destroyed a revered Shiite shrine on Feb. 22, setting off a wave of deadly sectarian attacks that pushed the country to the brink of civil war.The bombing was the latest in a series of attacks across central and northern Iraq in recent days that have tested the capabilities of Iraq’s U.S.-trained security forces.In Baghdad, sounds of heavy gunfire and explosions rattled the Sadr City district about 1 a.m. Monday and persisted for more than an hour. Iraqi government television and aides to radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr said U.S. aircraft attacked buildings in the area.”We condemn this cowardly, terrorist attack conducted by the U.S. forces in Sadr City,” said Falah Shanshal, a lawmaker aligned to al-Sadr. “We demand the government take necessary measures to stop such unjustified aggression and we demand an investigation.”Col. Hassan Chaloub, police chief of Sadr City, said three people including a woman and a 3-year-old girl were killed and 12 injured in the fighting. He said three cars and three houses also were destroyed.The U.S. military said the fighting started when Iraqi and U.S. forces raided the area to catch extremists suspected of running torture cells. The forces took fire as soon as they arrived and one U.S. soldier was injured, the statement said.The United States recently reinforced its troop strength in the city to try to reclaim the streets from militias – which include al-Sadr’s Mahdi Army.The top U.S. commander in the Middle East, Gen. John Abizaid, warned recently that if left unchecked, militias could become “a state within a state” like Lebanon’s Hezbollah and could challenge the authority of Iraq’s fledgling unity government.Gen. George Casey, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, meanwhile, said he discussed with Iraq’s President Jalal Talabani a security plan to bring “fundamental change to the security situation in Baghdad.””There is a comprehensive plan to change the situation significantly prior to Ramadan,” the Islamic holy month that begins late September, he said.He did not elaborate, but said the plan to be successful will need the cooperation of Iraqi security forces, U.S. forces and the people.”As the president said, the people of Iraq are tired of terrorism and want peace and security,” Casey told reporters.The U.S. military recently reinforced its troop strength in the city to try to reclaim the streets from militias.Addressing concerns about the rising power of Shiite militias, Talabani said he has written to al-Sadr “to control those elements of the Mahdi Army” who take “illegal actions.” He also said he told Casey that “it is in nobody’s interest to have confrontations with the Sadrists.”Talabani rejected suggestions that the country was sliding toward civil war.”Sunnis and Shiites are intermingled and their leaders are opposed (to civil war). There are clans that have both Sunni and Shiite members, how can they turn against each other?” he said.In northern Iraq, police fired in the air to disperse hundreds of stone-throwing demonstrators in Darbandikhan, injuring at least 11 people, provincial government official Othman Haji Mahmoud said. The protesters were demanding better living conditions such as electricity and fuel, the second such protest in two days in the area.In other violence Monday:- Assailants in two cars sprayed a barbershop in Baghdad with gunfire, killing the owner and four customers.- Three civilians were killed and 15 injured during clashes in Ramadi, west of Baghdad, after insurgents attacked a joint U.S.-Iraqi patrol.- Gunmen fired at a taxi in the northern city of Mosul, killing two policemen inside.- Two bodies, handcuffed and shot in the head, were found in western Baghdad.- Two bombs exploded almost simultaneously in a Baghdad shopping street, wounding 10 people, including a senior police officer.—Associated Press correspondents Sinan Salaheddin, Bushra Juhi and Qais al-Bashir contributed to this report.
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