Car bomb explosion kills 11 Iraqi troops
A suicide attacker detonated a car bomb north of Baghdad on Sunday, killing 12 Iraqis — all but one of them National Guards — in another strike against Iraqis cooperating with American forces, the U.S. military said.
Eleven other Iraqi National Guards were wounded in the blast near Balad, 50 miles north of Baghdad in the so-called Sunni Triangle, the scene of frequent assaults on U.S. and Iraqi security forces.
U.S. military spokesman Maj. Neal E. O'Brien said a civilian was among the 12 killed while the other casualties were members of Iraq's 203rd National Guard Battalion. The driver of the vehicle also died.
"Those responsible for suicide attacks are seeking to halt Iraq's progress on the path to democracy," O'Brien said.
In other violence, assailants killed a police officer in a drive-by shooting in southern Baghdad late Saturday, police commissioner Najm Eid said. He said a Shiite cleric was also killed in the Baghdad neighborhood of Amil.
The attack came a day after Al-Qaida's arm in Iraq issued a video showing militants executing five Iraqi security officers in the street, the latest move in their campaign to intimidate Iraqis and target those who collaborate with U.S.-led forces.
A statement posted Saturday on an Islamist Web site along with the video denounced the officers as "American dogs" and threatened other Iraqis with the same fate if they join security forces.
Insurgents have carried out numerous attacks on Iraqi forces in recent weeks, aiming to discredit elections scheduled for Jan. 30.
The U.S. military and the interim government of Prime Minister Ayad Allawi want the Iraqi police and National Guard to provide security for the vote, and mass desertions from those forces could scuttle such plans.
Guerrillas have proven increasingly adept at managing the Internet as part of their propaganda campaign, posting technically proficient footage of attacks on convoys and military bases, as well as executions of members of the Iraqi security forces or government officials.
The video and statement were issued by al-Qaida in Iraq, the group led by Jordanian terrorist Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. Separate photos of the executions indicated they occurred in the insurgent stronghold of Ramadi, west of Baghdad, on Dec. 26.
In the footage, the five prisoners, who are wearing civilian clothes, can be seen sitting on the ground with their hands bound behind their backs. A banner emblazoned "al-Qaida in Iraq" hangs in the background.
One of the prisoners identifies himself as Lt. Bashar Latif Jassim and says his mission is to "prevent terrorists from entering Iraq."
When asked by one of his captors who the terrorists are, Jassim replies: "Those who sabotage the country."
One of five masked gunmen behind the doomed men reads a statement describing them as a "bunch of apostates" who came to Ramadi to support "the apostate Allawi government and help the unjust American enemy."
"As usual, jihadists have no mercy when it comes to such infidel souls," he says.
The video then shows the men being shot in the back. After they fall to the ground, the gunmen kick them, apparently to see if any survived, then pump more bullets into them.
Throughout the execution, people and cars can be seen passing by, and some even stop to watch. One of the masked shooters leaves a paper, apparently a statement, on the back of one body.
In a separate statement posted on the Web Saturday, al-Zarqawi's group also claims responsibility for a number of attacks targeting security forces around Iraq earlier in the week. In one of the bloodiest days in recent months, militants killed some 20 policemen on Tuesday in attacks in various Iraqi provinces.
The group also said it was behind an attack on an American post in Samarra the same day. The U.S. military had said three militants were killed in that operation, but al-Qaida claimed that two were only injured. The statement said the attacks were part of a larger operation called "Killing the Mercenary Dogs."