Iraqi militants unleash third day of deadly attacks

Monday, May 2, 2005

BAGHDAD, Iraq -- Insurgents launched a third straight day of attacks in Iraq on Sunday, including ambushes, car bombs and a drive-by shooting, killing nine Iraqis and wounding more than 20, police said.

That raised the death toll from the latest wave of insurgent attacks that began on Friday to at least 79, including six U.S. soldiers. The violence was timed to deflate hopes in Washington and Baghdad that the installation of Iraq's first democratically elected government would curb the uprising.

Iraqi forces backed by the U.S. military, meanwhile, detained a number of suspects in the abduction of a British aid worker believed killed last year, the U.S. military said.

Articles apparently related to Margaret Hassan, the 59-year-old director of CARE international in Iraq, also were recovered during the morning raid south of Baghdad, according to the British and U.S. embassies.

Many of the recent attacks have been well-coordinated, and that was the case on a small road near Diala Bridge in eastern Baghdad, said police Lt. Col. Sabah Hamid al-Firtosi.

At 6:15 a.m., a pickup truck stopped near a checkpoint and insurgents jumped out, firing machine guns and rocket-propelled grenades, al-Firtosi said. Other insurgents appeared from behind nearby trees and joined the attack, he said. Five policemen were killed and one was wounded.

A car bomb later exploded in the Zafaraniyah neighborhood of Baghdad, killing four Iraqi civilians and wounding 12, police said.

Elsewhere in Baghdad, insurgents in three parked cars opened fire with handguns on a police patrol in the western Jihad neighborhood, wounding four policemen, police Capt. Talib Thamir said.

A suicide car bomber also attacked near a water pump station in southeastern Baghdad, said U.S. Army Lt. Col. Clifford Kent, but no casualties were immediately reported.

South of Baghdad, a roadside bomb exploded on a main road north of Hillah, wounding four civilians, said police Capt. Muthana Khalid. In Hillah itself, a drive-by shooting on a police patrol caused no injuries, but the police arrested the four gunmen involved, he said.

U.S. and Iraqi officials had hoped to curb support for the militants by including members of the Sunni Arab minority in a new Shiite-dominated Cabinet that will be sworn in Tuesday.

Minority Sunnis, who held monopoly power during Saddam Hussein's rule are believed to be the backbone of Iraq's insurgency. Most stayed away from landmark Jan. 30 parliamentary elections -- either in protest or out of fear of attack.

However, the lineup named by incoming Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari after months of political wrangling excluded Sunnis from meaningful positions and left the key defense and oil ministries -- among other unfilled posts -- in temporary hands.

Approval of the Cabinet Thursday was followed by an onslaught of bombings in the capital and elsewhere.

At least five car bombs rocked Baghdad on Saturday, the heart of the Iraqi government and American occupation, U.S. military spokesman Greg Kaufman said. Six more exploded in the northern city of Mosul, which also has seen frequent attacks.

U.S. military spokesman Maj. Darryl Wright announced the arrests in Hassan's abduction, but it was not immediately known how many suspects were detained.

The British Embassy in Baghdad confirmed that articles belonging to Hassan were found in the raid.

"We believe this is the first evidence that's been found regarding her since her death," said Martin Cronin, first secretary at the British Embassy in Baghdad.

Hassan, who also held Irish and Iraqi citizenship, was abducted in Baghdad on Oct. 19 on her way to work. Her captors later issued videos showing her pleading for Prime Minister Tony Blair to withdraw troops from Iraq and calling for the release of female Iraqi prisoners.

On Nov. 16, the Arab satellite television station Al-Jazeera said it had received a video showing a hooded militant shooting a blindfolded woman in the head. British officials said they believed the woman in the video was Hassan and her family said they believed she was dead, but no body was found.

Hassan had lived in Iraq for 30 years and was married to an Iraqi. She was renowned for her work distributing food, medicine and supplies to Iraqis suffering under the sanctions of the 1990s.

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