At least 3 killed in gun, bomb attacks in Iraq

Insurgents strike volunteer forces that work with U.S. troops

December 16, 2007|By Tina Susman | Tina Susman,Los Angeles Times

BAGHDAD -- Insurgents took aim at volunteer security forces working alongside U.S. and Iraqi troops yesterday, killing at least three and injuring 13 others in a string of gunfire and bomb attacks.

Also yesterday, U.S. forces announced the death of an American soldier, and Iraqi officials said they had arrested four suspects in connection with a bomb blast this week that killed 28 people in southern Iraq.

The attacks occurred as Iraqis prepared for the Muslim holiday of Id al-Adha, the Islamic feast of sacrifice, which begins this week.

South of Baghdad, the U.S. Army's 3rd Infantry Division announced the launch of a new offensive aimed at flushing al-Qaida in Iraq forces out of areas in Babil province, south of Baghdad. The operation follows the assassination last week of the Babil provincial police commander, Gen. Qais Hamza Mamouri, just hours after the commander of the 3rd Infantry Division had praised him for standing up to insurgents and militiamen.

The aim of the operation is to establish a new patrol base for U.S. and Iraqi troops in the area around Iskandariya, about 25 miles south of the capital, and to supplement troops with so-called Concerned Local Citizen volunteers. The volunteers are paid a daily fee of about $10 to bolster security in former insurgent strongholds, and they are credited with a turnaround in security that has led to sharp drops in attacks on civilians and troops.

But yesterday's attacks showed how vulnerable the new allies are. In northeast Baghdad's Adhamiya neighborhood, a former Sunni insurgent stronghold, two volunteers died and 10 were injured when a bomb exploded next to their checkpoint.

Another volunteer died about 50 miles north of Baghdad when gunmen raked his checkpoint with bullets. In southern Baghdad's Dora neighborhood, another shooting attack at a volunteer checkpoint left three guards injured.

Also yesterday, a suicide car bomber detonated his vehicle in Baghdad's Bayaa neighborhood, killing one Iraqi civilian.

In the southern city of Amarah, where 28 people died in a bomb attack Wednesday, police said they had arrested four suspects who admitted involvement. They gave no additional details.

The Amarah attack bore the hallmark of al-Qaida in Iraq and has raised fears that as British troops withdraw from the south, the area will become more vulnerable to violence. Britain handed security control of Maysan province and its capital, Amarah, to Iraqi officials in April. The British are scheduled to hand over security for neighboring Basra province to the Iraqis today.

In northern Nineveh province, a U.S. soldier died Friday of gunshot wounds, the military announced.

Tina Susman writes for the Los Angeles Times.

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