Four Iraqi police officers killed in attacks

Sixteen U.S. soldiers hurt during insurgent strikes in central, northern areas


BAGHDAD, Iraq - At least four Iraqi police officers were killed and 16 U.S. soldiers were wounded yesterday in a string of insurgent attacks across central and northern Iraq, military officials said.

Two of the officers were killed when a group of insurgents overtook their patrol car between Baiji and Tikrit, north of the capital, and fired on them with assault rifles, said Master Sgt. Robert Powell, a spokesman for the 1st Infantry Division.

Three officers in the car were wounded in the attack, and the insurgents stole the officers' patrol car before fleeing, Powell said. One of those killed was the operations officer for the police chief of Salahuddin province.

At least two other officers were killed in attacks in Baghdad yesterday, an Interior Ministry official said.

The Associated Press reported that one of the men had been identified as a top police commander, Brig. Gen. Razzaq Karim Mahmud.

The attacks were the latest in the steady campaign of violence aimed at Iraq's policemen, soldiers and national guardsmen, who will be responsible for security with the coming national elections.

In the northern city of Mosul, eight U.S. soldiers were wounded when a car bomb exploded near them as they worked to secure a weapons storehouse in the western part of the city, said Lt. Col. Paul Hastings, a military spokesman.

Immediately after the explosion, insurgents attacked with mortars, rocket-propelled grenades and small-arms fire, he said.

U.S. forces responded by calling in an airstrike, and a fighter jet dropped a 500-pound bomb on the attackers, causing an "unknown number of enemy casualties," Hastings said.

Near Baiji, two U.S. soldiers were wounded when a suicide bomber steered a car packed with explosives into their patrol, Powell said.

Also, two other soldiers were wounded near the town when a stationary car bomb detonated as their patrol passed by.

North of Kirkuk, two soldiers and a civilian interpreter were wounded when a car bomb detonated near their patrol, Powell said.

And near Samarra, two soldiers were wounded when a roadside bomb exploded near their patrol, he said.

The string of bomb attacks came as Marine officials announced that insurgents used a hospital in the western Iraqi town of Ramadi to ambush a Marine patrol on Friday night, attacking the passing troops through hospital windows with rocket-propelled grenades and small-arms fire.

But officials at the Ramadi General Hospital and Medical College denied that the insurgents had fired from inside the building, the Associated Press reported.

No Marines were wounded in the attack, Marine officials said. Two Iraqi civilians, including a judge, were killed, the AP said.

It was in the same hospital Dec. 1 that Marines found three 120-mm mortar rounds in the parking lot.

The rounds were connected to a detonator cord and were tied together to create a huge single bomb, a Marine official said.

In Baghdad, a U.S. soldier was sentenced to three years in prison for killing a wounded Iraqi teenager during heavy fighting in the Sadr City neighborhood in August.

The soldier, Staff Sgt. Johnny M. Horne Jr., pleaded guilty on Friday to one count of unpremeditated murder and one count of soliciting another soldier to commit unpremeditated murder.

Horne's punishment also included dishonorable discharge, reduction to the rank of private, and forfeiture of all pay. He initially faced the more serious charge of premeditated murder, but he agreed to plead guilty to the lesser charges.

During fierce fighting in Sadr City on Aug. 18, Horne and other soldiers discovered the seriously wounded 16-year-old in a burning truck after battles between U.S. soldiers and members of a militia loyal to the rebel Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr. At an earlier hearing, a criminal investigator said Horne and the soldiers with him had decided to kill the boy to "put him out of his misery."

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