Insurgents kill 17 Iraqis, US soldier
Insurgents unleashed a second day of deadly bombings in Iraq's capital and beyond Saturday, staging a series of carefully coordinated and increasingly sophisticated assaults that killed at least 65 over two days and appeared timed to deflate hopes in Washington and Baghdad that the installation of the nation's first democratically elected government would curb spiking violence.
At least 17 Iraqis and one U.S. soldier were killed in the bloodletting Saturday. The military also announced that six other U.S. soldiers had been killed and six wounded in Iraq since Thursday.
The U.S. Army, meanwhile, 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 Italian Foreign Ministry had no comment on the American report. But on Friday, Foreign Minister Gianfranco Fini said Italy did not agree with the U.S. version of events.
"The Italian government could not sign off a reconstruction of events that, in our opinion, does not capture 100 percent what happened," he said.
Italy was expected to release its own report on the shooting within days.
At least five car bombs rocked Baghdad on Saturday, the heart of the Iraqi government and American occupation, 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.
Approval of the Cabinet Thursday was met with an onslaught of bombings — including a number of highly coordinated suicide attacks — in the capital and elsewhere.
Saturday's attacks included a suicide bombing that targeted a joint U.S. military and Iraqi police patrol in western Baghdad, killing one Iraqi and wounding seven, including four policemen, police Maj. Mousa Abdul Karim said.
Minutes later, a second suicide bomber plowed into a civilian convoy near the offices of the National Dialogue Council, a coalition of 10 Sunni Arab factions that was negotiating for a stake in the new government. The blast killed at least one council guard and injured 18 other Iraqis, said police Capt. Kadhim Abbas at al-Yarmouk Hospital.
A third suicide car bomb targeting an Iraqi army patrol exploded near the Mohammed Rasoul Allah Mosque in eastern Baghdad, killing two Iraqi women and a girl, and seriously wounding four soldiers, police Lt. Col. Ahmed Abboud Effait said.
Later, a fourth suicide attacker targeted an American patrol near al-Shaab stadium in eastern Baghdad, killing two civilians in passing cars and injuring four, police said.
Two Iraqis — a policeman and a former official in Saddam's Baath Party — also died in shootings Saturday in Baghdad, police said.
At least five Iraqis were killed and 12 wounded in the attacks in Mosul, 225 miles northwest of Baghdad, the U.S. military said. Two U.S. soldiers also were injured.
A bomb hidden in a Mosul shrine killed a woman and two children, and injured one American soldier, the military said. A suicide car bomber targeting an American convoy killed two more Iraqis and wounded three, and another targeting Iraqi police injured four officers and five civilians, the military said in a statement.
Two civilian bystanders were wounded when a roadside bomb aimed at a police patrol exploded south of Baqouba, 35 miles northeast of Baghdad, Iraqi army Brig. Hamid Al-Timimi said.
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. Officials there reported nine people injured in the attack 40 miles west of the capital.
Fearing the violence could spread, Iraq's neighbors pledged at a meeting Saturday in Turkey to boost border security and increase intelligence sharing with the country's newly elected government, steps that could stem the flow of insurgents slipping across the poorly patrolled frontiers. Syria, meanwhile, announced it would restore relations with Iraq after more than two decades.
The U.S. investigation into the March 4 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.
Calipari was mistakenly shot soon after he had secured the release of Italian journalist Giuliana Sgrena from Iraqi militants, who had held her hostage for a month. U.S. soldiers fired on the Italians' vehicle as it approached an American checkpoint near Baghdad's airport. Sgrena and another Italian agent were wounded.
The U.S. investigation concluded the vehicle failed to slow down as it approached the checkpoint, and the soldiers who fired at it acted according to the rules of engagement.
But testimony from the two survivors clashed with the U.S. military's account. While the Americans maintain the soldiers fired warning shots in the air, then shot at the engine block because the car was speeding, the survivors insist they saw the beam of a warning light virtually at the same time gunfire broke out. The surviving intelligence agent also testified he was driving slowly.
The American deaths announced Saturday included one American killed Saturday in gunfire in Khaldiyah, 75 miles west of Baghdad, two killed Friday in a roadside bombing west of Baghdad and four killed and two injured in another bombing Thursday in Tal Afar, near the Syrian border.
Four more U.S. soldiers were wounded when their Humvee rolled into a ditch Friday night near Abu Ghraib prison, west of Baghdad, the U.S. military said.
At least 1,581 members of the U.S. military have died since the Iraq war started in March 2003, according to an Associated Press count.