AP reported on a brazen daylight attack on the Interior Ministry in Baghdad on Monday by fighters using automatic weapons and RPGs.[1]  --  CNN reported that two British soldiers had been killed by a roadside bomb near Basra.[2] ...


By Sameer N. Yacoub

Associated Press
September 5, 2005


BAGHDAD -- Insurgents launched a daring daylight assault Monday against the Interior Ministry in Baghdad, killing two police officers in a surge of attacks by Al-Qaida's arm in Iraq. Two British soldiers died in a roadside bombing in the south.

U.S. Marines said Monday that Al-Qaida in Iraq launched attacks the day before against U.S. and Iraqi targets in Hit, 85 miles west of Baghdad. Eight civilians, an Iraqi soldier, and three suicide bombers died in the Hit attacks.

Elsewhere, at least eight Iraqi civilians -- including five children -- were killed in fighting Monday in Tal Afar, said Dr. Abdul-Aal Kamal of the northern city's hospital.

There was no report of casualties among the combatants, including the U.S. 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment, that are trying to wrest control of Tal Afar, 260 miles north of Baghdad, from insurgents and foreign fighters. However, Iraqi authorities said the bodies of three community leaders who had refused insurgent demands for help were found Monday in the city. Iraqi officers said gunmen swept through the victims' districts over the weekend as fighting around the city escalated.

In Baghdad, thunderous explosions and volleys of heavy gunfire rattled the downtown area soon after sunrise Monday as about four carloads of insurgents staged a lightning raid on the Interior Ministry, which is responsible for police and paramilitary units nationwide. The insurgents, who fired automatic weapons and rocket-propelled grenades, withdrew after about 15 minutes, leaving two police officers dead and five wounded. There was no report of insurgent casualties.

A statement posted Monday on an Islamic website claimed responsibility for the attack in the name of Al-Qaida in Iraq, led by Jordanian terror mastermind Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.

U.S. Apache and Black Hawk helicopters flew over central Baghdad after the firefight.

Elsewhere, Iraqi officials said that Al-Qaida-linked foreign fighters had taken control of large areas of a strategic city on the Syrian border after weeks of fighting between an Iraqi tribe that supports the insurgents and one that opposes them. The officials, speaking on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisal, said much of Qaim, 200 miles west of Baghdad, had been abandoned after weeks of tribal fighting.

U.S. Marines operate around Qaim but have privately complained they don't have enough American or Iraqi forces to secure the area properly.

Iraq's Kurdish president, Jalal Talabani, issued a bitter rhetorical broadside Monday against other Arab countries, saying they had insulted Iraq by not sending diplomats to Baghdad and had not sent condolence letters about the stampede last week that killed about 1,000 Shiite pilgrims. "We stood with our Arab brothers in their hard times," Talabani said.

--The New York Times contributed to this report.




** Planning continues for October constitution vote **

September 5, 2005


BAGHDAD -- Violence in several Iraqi hotspots Monday claimed more coalition and insurgent deaths in pitched battles and ambushes up and down the war-torn country.

U.S. forces killed 11 insurgents near Balad in response to a mortar strike, and U.S. and Iraqi forces have killed 40 to 50 rebels so far in an operation in northeastern Tal Afar that began last week, military sources said.

Gunmen killed two police officers at a checkpoint near the Interior Ministry in Baghdad, and a roadside bomb killed two British soldiers near Basra in southeastern Iraq, authorities said.

The violence took place as Iraq continued planning for next month's constitutional referendum.

An election official on Monday told CNN that the election process would resemble the one in January, with voters making their choice with ink-stained finger swipes -- a symbol of last winter's historic poll.

Lawmakers are debating the constitution approved last week by the special committee that wrote the document. Sunni Arabs dislike some aspects of the document, which has support from the Shiite Arabs and Kurds in the government.

The violence in Iraq was reported from the far north in Tal Afar, the restive and predominantly Turkmen city in Nineveh province in northern Iraq, to near Basra in southern Iraq.

A military officer on Monday told CNN that 40 to 50 suspected insurgents had been killed in Tal Afar since U.S. and Iraqi forces launched a major joint operation on Friday.

The military has constructed a camp where they are screening citizens to identify insurgents. The citizens are provided with medical care, given food and water, and sent on their way.

The latest developments were part of Operation Restoring Rights, which has been under way since mid-July in Nineveh province with about 12,000 troops altogether -- about 4,000 coalition forces and roughly 8,000 Iraqi army and police forces.

A contingent of about 5,000 of the 12,000 troops moved into Tal Afar last week in an effort to drive out insurgents and restore the rights of the city's residents ahead of the all-important referendum in October, in which Iraqis will vote on the proposed constitution.

Coalition and Iraqi forces have been chipping away at the insurgency since last year at this time, when it controlled 90 percent of the city.

By July, the control has been sliced to about 50 percent, the U.S. military said.

Khasro Goran, the deputy governor of Nineveh province, told CNN that the current Tal Afar offensive was not a Falluja-like operation. He said most people in the city did not support intimidating the local population.

"The whole city is not under the control of the insurgents, its only some pockets. There have been many peaceful efforts to control Tal Afar since 2004. But it was all ink on paper. So yes, we needed military action."

In one incident Sunday, seven insurgents firing from a mosque were killed in fighting Iraqi and coalition troops.

In Balad, just north of Baghdad, U.S. soldiers killed 11 insurgents on Monday in response to a mortar attack on a coalition base near Balad, the U.S. military said.

Task Force Liberty soldiers also detained six people in the attack. Four of those detained had been wounded.

Emergency police said the Baghdad incident occurred around 6 a.m. local time (10 p.m. Sunday ET) when gunmen in four cars opened fire at a highway checkpoint near the Interior Ministry building. The assailants then fled.

The British Defense Ministry said a roadside bombing in Zubeir near Basra killed two British soldiers in an incident that occurred at 11 a.m. (3 a.m. ET). Zubeir is a Sunni Arab town in the south -- which is largely Shiite Arab. This brings the number of British military deaths in the war in Iraq to 95.

U.S.-led forces have launched raids and operations against militants in northern Iraq, and the sides have engaged in firefights.


Reports were issued Monday about other recent incidents.

-- The Marines said that attacks against coalition and Iraqi forces and the civilian infrastructure in the western town of Hit on Sunday were carried out by al Qaeda in Iraq. There were two suicide bombings, a firefight, and a vehicle car bombing.

"Three insurgents and one Iraqi soldier were reported killed in Sunday's attacks. Marines could not confirm the number of civilian casualties caused by the blasts," the Marines said.

In early July, Iraqi Security Forces and Marines from Regimental Combat Team-2 conducted Operation Sword, one of several anti-insurgent pushes in the western part of the country.

-- The Pentagon said that an American soldier died on Friday in Baghdad when his Bradley Fighting Vehicle was struck by an explosive. That brings the number of U.S. military fatalities in the war to 1,887.

-- The U.S. military reported that a raid in Hilla last week netted an insurgent suspect -- Ayad Adnan Away Samir, called "a key terrorist facilitator in the Falluja area."

The military said he was a "senior aide" to "Sheikh Abdullah Al Janabi, the Emir of the Shura Council in Falluja.

--From Producers Kianne Sadeq, Arwa Damon, Mohammed Tawfeeq, and Enes Dulami