3 US troops, 29 Iraqis killed in fresh violence

BAGHDAD: Twenty-nine Iraqis, including eight Kurdish policemen, were killed and three more US soldiers have been killed Friday in separate incidents of violence in Iraq. Three US soldiers “were killed Thursday from wounds sustained while conducting combat operations,” a military statement said.

Separately, violence raged south of Baghdad, where police said 11 people were kidnapped and murdered in the predominantly Sunni village of Mahawil, police said.

Thirteen people were abducted from their home around midnight, Captain Muthanna Hassan said, and while two were released, the others were found at dawn, floating in the Al-Malih River.

Hassan also said that a bomb had exploded in a market south of Baghdad, killing a civilian and wounding seven more.

In addition to the bodies found Friday in Mahawil, the bullet-riddled corpse of an employee of the local municipality charged with evicting squatters from state-owned properties was found in Amara, police said.

An off-duty soldier was also killed in the southern town of Amara by unidentified gunmen, police said.

The US military said it had killed eight insurgents in an airstrike that destroyed a building in Arab Jbour near Baghdad after its ground forces came under heavy fire and had to call in for air force support.

A local Kurdish leader expressed anger over the attack but US headquarters insisted its forces had “exercised proper self-defence measures in response to the assessed threat”. “Coalition forces killed eight armed men during a raid in Mosul on Friday morning targeting an Al Qaeda in Iraq network in the Al-Karama neighbourhood,” the US military said, referring to the Arab Sunni-led insurgent group.

The statement said US soldiers had spotted armed men in a bunker near a suspected Al Qaeda bomb factory and had made several calls in Arabic and Kurdish for the men to put down their weapons and fired warning shots. Helicopters were called in and opened fire.

Two people were killed and eight wounded when a roadside bomb exploded in a market in Hazwa, near Hilla, south of Baghdad, police said.

US and Iraqi forces pushed into Baghdad Friday to clean up insurgent and militia hotbeds, launching house-to-house searches in a major operation to restore order in the battered Iraqi capital. Witnesses said US and Iraqi troops had cordoned off areas in frontline districts in northern and southern Baghdad and were hunting for militants. “We are still flowing forces into the city,” said US Lieutenant Colonel Christopher Garver, while both military and civilian officials warned reporters not to expect instant results from the operation. The US military has begun moving the first of 21,500 reinforcements into Baghdad in the latest in a series of operations to regain control of a city plagued by insurgent gangs and sectarian death squads.

US Lieutenant Colonel Scott Bleichwehl described the activity as “framework operations” that involved “presence patrols in partnership with Iraqi national police”. Apache attack helicopters circled over the town centre and the sound of gunfire and a distant explosion disturbed the calm resulting from the weekly vehicle curfew imposed to protect worshippers at Friday prayers.

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