Iraqi police chief targeted

Wife and brothers are killed

four children kidnapped

June 09, 2007|By Garrett Therolf | Garrett Therolf,LOS ANGELES TIMES

BAGHDAD -- Stumbling efforts to establish law and order in one of Iraq's most violent regions suffered another blow yesterday when dozens of gunmen raided the home of Baqouba's police chief and killed his wife, two brothers and 11 guards. Four of his children were kidnapped, police said.

The attacks came the same day that explosions in the country's north and south killed 23 people.

Police Chief Col. Ali Jorani, who was not at home during the attack, is regarded by U.S. forces as a key ally in the effort to gain residents' confidence in law enforcement in Diyala province.

They are hoping to gain some control after months when officers detained scores of military-aged men on the basis of little evidence and without providing them access to the courts for extended periods, said Lt. Col. James D. George, the acting U.S. commander in the region.

But al-Qaida in Iraq and its affiliates have undermined local security forces, especially in Baqouba, the provincial capital, by killing some policemen and almost entirely forcing police out of some sectors of the city.

The province is now deadlier than it has been at any time since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion. Proportionately, Diyala province now is the deadliest place in Iraq for U.S. troops, and it trails only Baghdad in the raw number of U.S. deaths.

Iraqi and American forces are trying to enlist the support of more moderate insurgent fighters, and Jorani is viewed by many local residents as an important negotiator in that effort.

Jorani's home was overtaken by the gunmen before dawn. According to eyewitnesses, the men used a large number of vehicles but parked them a distance from the home so that the sound would not raise alarms. They then approached the home on foot from multiple angles.

The two brothers who were killed also were acting as guards, and the abducted children included two sons and two daughters.

Police provided details of the attack but did not make any official comment on it. Jorani's whereabouts were unknown yesterday.

On April 23, the city's previous police chief, Safa Atimimi, was killed with nine others when a car bomb blew up among a crowd of police officers.

In recent weeks, American forces have stepped up security for public officials, including the province's governor, who is the target of frequent attempted assassinations, but it was unclear whether those efforts also had been extended to the police chief.

Meanwhile, two bombs exploded in a bus terminal and a market in the town of Qurnah, 200 miles south of Baghdad, killing 18 people and wounding 42, authorities said.

The area had not been the site of high-profile bombings in recent months.

Salam Mohsin Maliki, a tribal sheik, said the town had not been hit by a major bomb since American troops arrived in the country.

"I think the terrorists targeted Qurnah to send a message that there is no peaceful place excluded from terrorism," Maliki said.

In northern Iraq, bombs hit a Shiite mosque in a small town near Kirkuk, killing five people and wounding 14, police said.

Iraqi police Capt. Abbas Mohammed said the attack was carried out by a suicide bomber wearing an explosive vest, as well as by a car bomb.

A mosque and houses nearby were severely damaged. The town, Daqouq, is predominantly populated by Turkmen, Shiite Arabs and Kurds.

In Basra, police said unidentified men assassinated police Lt. Ali Uday Zboon as he traveled a highway just outside the city. He served as the director of intelligence operations at a police station.

In Baghdad, seven bodies were found in the streets, apparent victims of sectarian violence, police said.

Garrett Therolf writes for the Los Angeles Times.

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