Robed gunmen in Iraq kill six police officers


BAQOUBA, Iraq -- About 40 Iraqi guerrillas, some dressed in the black robes and veils of conservative women, attacked policemen at a checkpoint here yesterday, killing six officers, officials said.

"The attackers were in a car, holding AK-47s under their robes," said Col. Sattar Ahmad Thair, a police supervisor in Baqouba, a provincial capital about 35 miles north of Baghdad. "They drove up to the checkpoint and suddenly jumped out of the car, firing at our officers."

Insurgents killed at least 11 policemen throughout Iraq yesterday, one of the main days of the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Fitr, which marks the end of Ramadan, the Muslim month of fasting. The insurgents long have targeted police, and they vowed yesterday to revive a focus on another of their target groups - foreign diplomats, notably from other Muslim countries.

As U.S. forces in Iraq push to build Iraqi security agencies, insurgents work to undermine them. At least around Baqouba, they might have decided that police are a "softer" target than Iraq's army, said Sgt. Roberto Chavez, whose unit is training police in this city.

Baqouba, a city of 300,000 people, sits at the eastern edge of the "Sunni triangle," the region that has formed the center of the Sunni-led fight against America's presence in Iraq.

The attackers struck in Baqouba's southernmost neighborhood, Buhriz, long a rebel stronghold. During the summer, U.S. and Iraqi government forces locked down the neighborhood and conducted intensive searches and raids meant to clean out rebels.

The attack began at 7:45 a.m. when a car apparently full of women pulled up to the checkpoint in Buhriz. As the insurgents in women's robes opened fire, other groups attacked from various directions. Some police reports said the checkpoint was hit by a barrage of mortars, too.

The highly organized attack reflected skills brought to the insurgency by former military officers under Saddam Hussein, suggested U.S. officers based in this region. It was the latest in a series of guerrilla attacks against the police here, which have included rocket and mortar barrages on police stations.

South of the oil center of Kirkuk, a bomb planted beside a road blew up an Iraqi police vehicle that was escorting fuel trucks. It killed five men with a police commando unit, news agencies said.

Al-Qaida in Iraq vowed yesterday to kill foreign diplomats and embassy personnel unless they leave Iraq. The message came via a Web site used by Muslim militants. Guerrillas in Iraq are holding two Moroccan embassy employees seized Oct. 20.

This year, insurgents have kidnapped or killed diplomats from Algeria, Bahrain, Egypt and Pakistan.

James Rupert writes for Newsday.

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