BAGHDAD, Iraq - Three US airmen died Sunday in a car bombing in
Baghdad - among at least 17 people killed in violence across Iraq as Iraqi
troops launched a fresh battle to oust militias and pacify the capital.
The sectarian attacks
continued despite the major drive to tame Baghdad. The Iraqi army reported
killing 30 militants late Saturday in a Sunni insurgent stronghold in the center
of the city, just to the north of the heavily fortified Green Zone.
Iraqis carry a coffin with the body of their dead relative in front of
Baghdad's Yarmouk hospital morgue, Iraq, Sunday, Jan. 7, 2007.[AP]
Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, speaking only hours earlier at a ceremony
marking the 85th anniversary of the Iraqi army, announced his intention for the
relentless and open-ended bid to crush militant fighters bedeviling Baghdad.
Hassan al-Suneid, a key aid and member of al-Maliki's Dawa Party, said the
Iraqi leader had committed 20,000 soldiers to the operation that would call upon
American troops and airpower only when needed.
A car bomb in Baghdad on Sunday killed the three airmen assigned to the 447th
Expeditionary Civil Engineer Squadron's Explosive Ordnance Division, the US
military said. A soldier died Saturday after coming under fire in the capital,
and another soldier died Friday from combat wounds sustained in Iraq's volatile
western Anbar province.
With the deaths, at least 3,011 members of the US military have died since
the beginning of the Iraq war in March 2003, according to an Associated Press
Among Sunday's attacks:
A barrage of mortars killed four civilians and wounded five others in central
Baghdad after a roadside bomb missed an Iraqi police patrol and killed two
pedestrians, police said.
Gunmen drove through a marketplace in southwestern Baghdad, spraying bullets
into food and clothing stalls and killing three Sunni Muslim shopkeepers, a
police officer said on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to
speak to the media. Another drive-by shooting targeted four guards for the Iraqi
Finance Ministry, killing one of them.
In Mahaweel, about 35 miles south of Baghdad, gunmen killed a Shiite cleric
and his son as they were heading to a nearby Shiite shrine, police said.
Attackers shot dead a Defense Ministry employee on his way to work south of
Baghdad, and a provincial councilman was injured in an assassination attempt in
Hillah. Police said a parked car bomb killed a woman and wounded 13 people in an
outdoor market in the same city, about 60 miles south of Baghdad.
On Saturday, a stern al-Maliki told the nation the Iraqi army operation in
Baghdad would continue "until all goals are achieved and security is ensured for
"We are fully aware that implementing the plan will lead to some harassment
for all beloved Baghdad residents, but we are confident they fully understand
the brutal terrorist assault we all face."
State television said eight militants, including five Sudanese fighters, were
captured Saturday in the battle near Haifa Street, a Sunni insurgent stronghold
on the west bank of the Tigris, where police reported finding the bodies of 27
torture victims dumped earlier in the day.
Al-Suneid, who is also a member of parliament, said the new drive to free
Baghdad from the grip of sectarian violence would focus initially on Sunni
insurgent strongholds in western Baghdad.
Sunnis were likely to cry foul, given that a large measure of today's
violence in Baghdad is the work of Shiite militias, loyal to al-Maliki's key
political backer, Muqtada al-Sadr.
Also Sunday, the US military announced that 88 suspects were captured in
American and Iraqi raids last week, and a weapons cache used for assembling
improvised explosive devices was destroyed. Sixty-nine of those suspects were
released after questioning, the military said in a statement.