Insurgents launch attacks in Samarra

`Pacified' Iraqi city erupts in violence, police chief quits as family threatened

December 09, 2004|By Edmund Sanders | Edmund Sanders,LOS ANGELES TIMES

BAGHDAD, Iraq - Two months after U.S. forces declared that they had pacified Samarra, the restive city erupted in violence again with a string of attacks yesterday that killed at least four Iraqis, damaged a U.S. military convoy and caused the local police chief to announce his resignation.

The strikes followed a month of car bombs, ambushes and bloodshed in the Iraqi city that shook residents, closed businesses and disrupted voter registration efforts.

In announcing his resignation over a mosque loudspeaker, Maj. Gen. Talib Shamil Samarriee said insurgents had attacked his home and tried to kidnap his son at school, where teachers hid the boy to save him. Gunmen attacked the chief's car.

"I came according to the wish of the sons of the city in order to serve this city and to present any assistance I can," the police commander said. "But [after] what has happened to me within these three days, especially today, when my house and family were attacked and terrified, I decided to quit everything. I have no relationship with any governmental office."

U.S. military officials said last night that they had contacted the police chief and he was still on the job. It was not immediately clear whether Samarriee had changed his mind.

The confusion followed a difficult day for Iraqi security forces in Samarra, about 65 miles north of Baghdad. Insurgents armed with guns and rocket-propelled grenades stormed two police stations.

At one, they killed an Iraqi police officer and a child at a nearby school, witnesses said. At the second, they chased officers away and set off explosives.

U.S. and Iraqi forces eventually secured both stations.

Meanwhile, a suicide car bomber attacked two U.S. Bradley fighting vehicles just outside the city, and gunmen fired at a U.S. checkpoint. No troops were hurt, but two Iraqi civilians were killed by U.S. forces in the crossfire, military officials said. One of the Bradleys was damaged.

The assault on Samarra in early October by 5,000 U.S. and Iraqi troops was described then as a model for defeating Iraq's insurgency. The recent turnaround underscores the long-term challenges still faced by U.S. military leaders, who are finding that as they squeeze militants in one city, they are popping up in another.

The turmoil in Samarra has grown over the past month as U.S. and Iraqi security forces shifted their attention to retaking Fallujah, another hot spot dominated by Sunni Muslims.

The U.S. military played down the insurgent attacks and said that police training and recruitment in Samarra were on track.

The Los Angeles Times is a Tribune Publishing newspaper.

Killed in Iraq

As of yesterday, 1,280 U.S. service members have died since the beginning of military operations. Since May 1, 2003, when President Bush declared that major combat operations in Iraq had ended, 1,142 U.S. soldiers have died.

Latest identifications

Army Pfc. Andrew M. Ward, 25, Kirkland, Wash.; died Sunday in Ramadi when his unit was attacked by small arms fire; assigned to the 44th Engineer Battalion, 2nd Infantry Division, Camp Howze, Korea.

Army Cpl. Joseph O. Behnke, 45, New York; died in a vehicle accident Saturday in Baghdad; assigned to the Army National Guard's 1st Battalion, 258th Field Artillery Regiment, New York City.

Army Staff Sgt. Kyle A. Eggers, 27, Euless, Texas; died Sunday in Habbaniyah when his vehicle was struck by an explosive; assigned to the 1st Battalion, 506th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Infantry Division, Camp Greaves, Korea.

Army Sgt. Michael L. Boatright, 24, Whitesboro, Texas; killed by an explosive Saturday in Baghdad; assigned to the 20th Engineer Battalion, 1st Cavalry Division, Fort Hood, Texas.

Associated Press

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