Iraq Insurgents Continue Wave of Attacks


New York Times

May 1, 2005

BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) -- Insurgents began a third straight day of attacks in Iraq on Sunday, including ambushes, car bombs and a drive-by shooting, killing nine Iraqis and wounding 21, police said.

That raised the death toll from the latest wave of insurgent attacks that began on Friday to at least 74. The violence was timed to deflate hopes in Washington and Baghdad that the installation of the Iraq's first democratically elected government would curb the uprising.

One U.S. soldier also died in Saturday's attacks.

The strikes have been increasingly well coordinated, and that was the case in an ambush Sunday on a small road near Diala Bridge in eastern Baghdad, said police Lt. Col. Sabah Hamid al-Firtosi.

At 6:15 a.m., a pickup truck stopped near a checkpoint and insurgents jumped out and began firing machine guns and rocket-propelled grenades. Other insurgents appeared from behind nearby trees and joined the fight. Five policemen were killed and one was wounded, al-Firtosi said.

Later in the morning, a car bomb exploded in the Zafaraniyah neighborhood of Baghdad, killing four Iraqi civilians and wounding 12, police said.

Elsewhere in Baghdad, insurgents in three parked cars opened fire with hand guns on a police patrol in the western Jihad neighborhood, wounding four policemen, said police Capt. Talib Thamir.

Two attacks occurred Sunday in and around Hillah city, 60 miles south of Baghdad, police said.

A roadside bomb exploded on a main road north of Hillah, wounding four civilians, said police Capt. Muthana Khalid.

Also in Hillah on Sunday, a police patrol was the target of a drive-by shooting attack but avoided any casualties. The police arrested the four gunmen involved, Khalid said.

On Saturday, the U.S. Army released a report clearing American soldiers in the death of an Italian intelligence agent in Iraq and recommending no disciplinary action. The agent was escorting a released Italian hostage when American soldiers fired on their car.

The investigation into the checkpoint killing of Nicola Calipari said the incident might have been prevented by better coordination between the Italian government and U.S. forces in Iraq. The U.S. investigation concluded the vehicle had failed to slow down as it approached the checkpoint and the soldiers who fired at it had acted according to the rules of engagement.

The Italian Foreign Ministry had no comment on the American report Saturday. But the day before, Foreign Minister Gianfranco Fini said Italy did not agree with the U.S. version of events. Italy was expected to release its own report on the shooting within days.

At least five car bombs rocked Baghdad on Saturday, U.S. military spokesman Greg Kaufman said. Six more exploded in the northern city of Mosul, which also has seen frequent attacks.

U.S. and Iraqi officials had hoped to curb support for the militants by including members of the Sunni Arab minority in a new Shiite-dominated Cabinet that will be sworn in Tuesday.

Sunnis, who held monopoly power during the rule of Saddam Hussein, are believed to be the backbone of Iraq's insurgency. Most stayed away from landmark Jan. 30 parliamentary elections -- either in protest or out of fear of attack.

However, the lineup named by incoming Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari after months of political wrangling excluded Sunnis from meaningful positions and left the key defense and oil ministries -- among other unfilled posts -- in temporary hands.

And then approval of the Cabinet was met with an onslaught of bombings -- including a number of highly coordinated suicide attacks -- in the capital and elsewhere. The attacks Saturday targeted Iraqi and U.S. forces and those seen as collaborators, but also killed and wounded a large number of bystanders.

In one strike west of Baghdad, the U.S. military said three civilians were killed and at least one wounded when rockets and mortars slammed into Fallujah. A young girl was among those killed, and Associated Press Television News footage showed a weeping man kissing the child's corpse at Fallujah General Hospital.