Series of Insurgent Attacks Kills at Least 4 Iraqi Policemen


New York Times

December 12, 2004

BAGHDAD, Iraq, Dec. 11 - At least four Iraqi police officers were killed and 16 American soldiers were wounded Saturday 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 First Infantry Division.

Three officers in the car were wounded in the attack, and the insurgents stole the officers' patrol car before fleeing, Sergeant 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 on Saturday, 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 American 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.

American 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," Colonel Hastings said.

Near Baiji, two American soldiers were wounded when a suicide bomber steered a car packed with explosives into their patrol, Sergeant 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, Sergeant 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 A.P. said.

In Baghdad, an American 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.

Sergeant 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, Sergeant Horne and other soldiers discovered the seriously wounded 16-year-old in a burning truck after battles between American soldiers and members of a militia loyal to the rebel Shiite cleric Moktada al-Sadr. At an earlier hearing, a criminal investigator said Sergeant Horne and the soldiers with him had decided to kill the boy to "put him out of his misery."