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Monday, September 13, 2004 - Page updated at 12:31 A.M.
Baghdad violence rages
By Seattle Times news services
U.S. troops battled insurgents for at least two hours in central Baghdad, where Iraqi crowds swarming over a charred Bradley fighting vehicle were fired on by a U.S. helicopter, wounding dozens and killing as many as 13, including a reporter for an Arab satellite-television station.
U.S. and Iraqi troops also thwarted at least two car bombings, one at the Abu Ghraib prison, another at the entrance to the U.S.-controlled International Zone. A third bomber succeeded in hitting a military convoy on the road to the Baghdad airport, destroying several vehicles and wounding three Americans and two Iraqis.
A group led by the Jordanian terrorist Abu Musab al-Zarqawi claimed credit for the mayhem in a statement posted on the Internet. The group, Tawhid and Jihad, crowed that it had "the capability to surprise the enemy and hit its strategic installations at the right time and place."
Iraqi government officials acknowledged the capital was becoming more dangerous, something that has been evident since the United States surrendered political sovereignty to an interim Iraqi government June 28.
"There's no doubt this is a definite escalation of the violence. There is obviously some coordination, and their [insurgents'] aim is to topple the government," said Sabah Kadim, a spokesman for Iraq's Interior Ministry. "We're not prepared to accept that."
Interim Prime Minister Ayad Allawi vowed to pursue insurgents. "We are adamant that we are going to defeat terrorism," Allawi said. "We intend to confront them and bring them to justice."
In Washington, Secretary of State Colin Powell acknowledged the U.S.-led coalition faced a "difficult time" in Iraq but said the United States had a plan to quash the insurgency and bring those areas under control in time for national elections in January.
The insurgency "will be brought under control," Powell said on NBC's "Meet The Press." "It's not an impossible task."
But Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari said the level of security in his country will dictate whether the national elections are held when scheduled. "The timetable really depends at the end of the day on the security situation," Zebari said in Cairo, Egypt. "But we are going in this direction [of elections] without hesitation."
In Ramadi, west of Baghdad, clashes between insurgents and U.S. forces left 10 people dead and 40 wounded. There were other scattered clashes.
The U.S. military said jets carried out a precision strike on a site where several members of an al-Qaida-linked group led by al-Zarqawi were meeting.
The military said intelligence reports indicated the strikes had achieved their aim.
Witnesses said the bombing targeted the city's al-Shurta neighborhood. Dr. Adel Khamis of the Fallujah General Hospital said at least nine people were killed, including women and children, and 12 others were wounded.
The Health Ministry set yesterday's death toll of Iraqis at 59 nationwide. The toll of wounded was more than 200, 102 of those in the capital. There was no official announcement of U.S. casualties, but reports indicated at least 11 had been wounded. There were no reports of U.S. military deaths.
In Baghdad, the assault began near dawn, with more than a dozen booming explosions as rockets and large mortar rounds rained down on targets in and around the fortresslike Green Zone that houses the interim Iraqi government and many foreigners.
When U.S. patrols fanned out, seeking the insurgents, the gunbattles began. The fighting was particularly intense along Haifa Street, a major city artery.
At the same time, a bomber lost control of the car at a checkpoint at an entrance to the Green Zone as soldiers fired but still managed to detonate the bomb.
As U.S. soldiers yelled at everyone to get down, there was a second explosion: The car's gas tank had caught fire. Shrapnel fell on both sides of the blast wall, but no one was hurt other than the bomber and there was no major damage.
The attempted suicide bombing at the Abu Ghraib prison took place at about the same time, shortly after a barrage of mortar shells landed near the prison. The bomber was shot dead before he could reach the prison's wall and detonate his explosives, said Lt. Col. Barry Johnson. Troops at the prison fended off a similar attack three weeks ago, Johnson said.
The third suicide bombing occurred about noon, striking a joint convoy of U.S. and Iraqi National Guard troops near the Baghdad airport. The attack destroyed several vehicles and injured three U.S. soldiers and two Iraqi civilians.
Compiled from Knight Ridder Newspapers, The Associated Press and The Washington Post.
Copyright © 2004 The Seattle Times Company
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