Thursday, January 20, 2005

The Daily Death & Mayhem In Iraq

Iraqi children cry after their parents were killed when US troops opened fire on their car as it approached a checkpoint in Tal Afar, west of Mosul.
[Chris Hondros/Getty Images] reports:
A British security worker was among at least 29 people killed in Iraq yesterday as militants continued their campaign to destabilise the country ahead of next week’s elections.

Meanwhile, the United States military admitted killing two adults in a car at a checkpoint as their six children cowered on the back seat.

The Briton and his Iraqi colleague were working for London-based Janusian Security Risk Management when they were killed in an ambush near a power station they were protecting south of the central city of Beiji. A third man remained missing last night.

Dr David Claridge, managing director of the firm, said: "We deeply regret the loss of our colleagues in Iraq."

The US military offered its condolences yesterday for what it called an "unfortunate incident" in which troops shot dead two civilians in a car as it approached a checkpoint in the city of Tal Afar, 40 miles west of Mosul, on Tuesday.

US troops trying to stop the car used hand signals and fired warning shots before firing at the vehicle, killing the driver and front-seat passenger, a military statement said. The six children on the back seat were unharmed.

In a string of other attacks yesterday, insurgents detonated a lorry bomb outside the Australian embassy in Baghdad and hit Iraqi security targets with at least three car bombs.

The deadliest blast of the day was near a police headquarters and hospital in eastern Baghdad. The US military said the explosion killed 18 people, including five Iraqi police, and wounded 21.

Half an hour earlier, a suicide lorry bomb rammed into the security barriers outside the Australian embassy. Two Iraqis were killed and two Australian soldiers were among several people wounded, officials said. A third vehicle bomb killed two Iraqi security guards near Baghdad airport and a fourth killed two civilians and two Iraqi soldiers at a military complex in the city, the US military said.

A police source said another bomb exploded at a Baghdad bank, targeting police as they collected their salaries. Witnesses said at least one person there was killed.

Howard Brown, the Australian ambassador, said the lorry bomb that exploded near his embassy was close to accommodation for diplomatic security personnel. "It was a car bomb aimed at the building where the security people are based. It was quite a substantial explosion," he said.

The al-Qaeda-linked insurgent group led by Jordanian militant Abu Musab al-Zarqawi said it had carried out three suicide bombings in Baghdad, including that at the embassy.

Insurgents have repeatedly targeted Iraqi soldiers and police in the run-up to the elections on January 30. Iraqi forces are due to provide protection at polling stations on the day.

Militants yesterday posted a video on the internet showing the killing of two Iraqis who were working for a US communications firm involved in the country’s election.

On Tuesday, the Iraqi interim gov ernment announced measures to try to prevent bloodshed during the ballot, with land borders to be closed for three days and vehicles barred from getting close to polling stations.

Iraqi prime minister Iyad Allawi and the US say the elections must go ahead, despite calls from many Sunni politicians for a delay to try to win wider Sunni support for the ballot to pick a national assembly.

The US is encouraging Iraq’s Sunni Muslims to participate in next week’s election, but the US ambassador, John Negroponte, said he foresaw a new assembly dominated by other groups.

"We’ve encouraged the Sunnis to get out and vote. We’ve encouraged their leaders to participate in the process," he said.

"We’ve basically made the argument that it’s about democracy ... Why would you exclude yourself from a process that is going, through the act of writing a constitution, to help shape the political future of your country?"