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Car bombs and gunmen kill more than 20 people in Iraq

Sunday, February 19, 2006

BAGHDAD, Iraq -- Car bombs and gunmen killed more than 20 people, including an American soldier, Saturday.

The American soldier died when a roadside bomb exploded about 8 a.m. near the Shaab soccer stadium in eastern Baghdad, the U.S. command said in a statement. It was the first death of an American soldier since Tuesday and brought the number of U.S. personnel killed since the Iraq war began in March 2003 to at least 2,273, according to an Associated Press count.

Four Iraqi policemen were killed when a roadside bomb exploded near a fuel tanker on an eastern Baghdad highway, police said. Another bomb exploded at midmorning in another part of east Baghdad, missing a police patrol but killing three Iraqi civilians and wounding four, police said.

A senior Baghdad police official escaped assassination when a bomb exploded near his convoy in the Karradah district. Brig. Abdul-Karim Maryoush was unharmed but two police escorts died, officials said.

Elsewhere, two more Iraqi civilians were killed in a pair of roadside bombings -- one in Tikrit and another in Baqouba.

Both those bombs were intended for police patrols, officials in each city said.

Another bomb in Fallujah, 40 miles west of Baghdad, killed and child and blew off his brother's legs, police said.

U.S. soldiers killed three men trying to plant roadside bombs in Baghdad's notorious Dora neighborhood, police said. At least 10 other Iraqis died in a series of gunfights and ambushes throughout Baghdad, including two policemen slain on their way home Saturday night, police said.

The U.S. command said American and Iraqi troops found and destroyed 11 roadside bombs and three weapons caches in Baghdad in the past 24 hours.

Twenty-nine suspects were arrested, the command said.

In addition, police found the bodies of four men -- bound, blindfolded and shot to death -- in three separate parts of the Iraqi capital. Their identities were unknown and it was unclear when they died, but they appeared to be victims of reprisal attacks by Shiite and Sunni extremists.

The Interior Ministry has announced an investigation into allegations of Shiite death squads in police ranks after U.S. troops arrested 22 policemen preparing to kill a Sunni Arab last month.

Also Saturday, a government official released figures showing the devastating effects of the insurgency on the country's oil industry, the foundation of Iraq's economy. The industry suffered $6.25 billion in losses in 2005 due to infrastructure sabotage and lost export revenues, Oil Ministry spokesman Assem Jihad said.

Jihad told Dow Jones Newswires that Iraqi oil installations were hit by 186 attacks last year in which insurgents killed 47 oil engineers, technicians and workers as well as about 100 police protecting pipelines and other oil-related facilities.

Most of the sabotage took place in northern oil installations, preventing Iraq from exporting about 400,000 barrels a day that normally pass through pipelines to the Turkish port of Ceyhan.

Iraq currently produces around 2 million barrels per day from its southern and northern oil fields, down about 800,000 barrels from levels before the 2003 U.S.-led invasion.

Violence and attacks against foreign contractors also have had a devastating impact on the economy, driving up security costs and delaying reconstruction projects.

British and Iraqi officials said two Macedonian of Albanian ethnicity were seized two days ago along with a Macedonian woman, who was released. The three work for Ecolog, a German-owned Macedonian company that has a cleaning contact at the Basra International Airport.

A $1 million ransom has been demanded for their release, a company employee said on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media.

More than 250 foreigners have been kidnapped in Iraq since 2003, including American reporter Jill Carroll, who was abducted Jan. 7 in Baghdad. At least four other foreigners were seized last month -- including two Germans abducted in Beiji and two Kenyan engineers who disappeared after an ambush in Baghdad.

On Saturday, the U.S. military announced the release of about 430 male Iraqi detainees over the past few days. Carroll's kidnappers have demanded the release of all women detainees. The U.S. military has said the periodic releases are not related to the kidnappers' demands.


Associated Press reporters Sameer N. Yacoub, Bushra Juhi and Sinan Salaheddin contributed to this report from Baghdad.


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