|Last updated: 6/27/04 3:32 PM|
|Last updated: 6/27/04 3:32 PM|
Published: Thu, Jun 24, 2004
In Baqouba, two American soldiers were killed, and one was killed in Mosul.
BAQOUBA, Iraq (AP) Insurgents launched coordinated attacks against police and government buildings across Iraq today, less than a week before the hand-over of sovereignty. Sixty-nine people, including three American soldiers, were killed, and more than 270 people were wounded, Iraqi and U.S. officials said.
The large number of attacks, directed mostly at Iraqi security services, was a clear sign of just how powerful the insurgency in Iraq remains and could be the start of a new push to torpedo next week's transfer of sovereignty to an interim transitional government.
In Baghdad, the Health Ministry said at least 66 people were killed and 268 injured nationwide. However, the figures did not include U.S. dead and injured.
Some of the heaviest fighting was reported in Baqouba, 35 miles northeast of Baghdad, where two American soldiers were killed and seven wounded, the U.S. 1st Infantry Division said. Attackers also targeted police stations in Ramadi, Mahaweel and the northern city of Mosul, where car bombs rocked the Iraqi Police Academy, two police stations and the al-Jumhuri hospital.
Khalid Mohammed, an official at the hospital, said dozens of injured were brought there. At least 50 people died and 170 were wounded there, he said. A U.S. soldier was also killed and three were wounded in Mosul.
In other attacks, four Iraqi soldiers were killed in an explosion near a checkpoint manned by Iraqi and American soldiers in the southern Baghdad district of Dora. Three U.S. soldiers tended to what appeared to be a wounded American soldier on the road. The soldier's helmet lay nearby. Black smoke and flames shot up from a burning pickup truck.
It was not immediately clear what caused the blast.
A statement quoted today by a Saudi Web site claimed responsibility for the Baqouba attacks in the name of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, who said the insurgents belong to his Tawhid and Jihad movement. He called residents to "comply with the instructions of resistance."
The statement appealed to residents to remain in their homes "because these days are going to witness campaigns and attacks against the occupation troops and those who stand beside them."
U.S. aircraft dropped three 500-pound bombs on an insurgent position near the city soccer stadium in Baqouba, said Maj. Neal E. O'Brien, a U.S. 1st Infantry Division spokesman. Insurgents roamed the city with rocket launchers and automatic weapons and occupied two police stations.
Insurgents destroyed the home of the police chief of the Diyala province, where Baqouba is, O'Brien said.
At the main hospital in Baqouba, doctors received injured people continuously and the corridors were spattered with blood. Civilian cars sped close carrying people with gunshot and shrapnel wounds.
One man in the emergency ward vented his anger, screaming "May God destroy America and all those who cooperate with it!"
U.S. officials projected calm.
"Coalition forces feel confident with the situation," said Brig. Gen. Mark Kimmitt, coalition deputy operations chief.
Explosions and shelling shook Fallujah, 40 miles west of Baghdad. Armed men ran through the streets, witnesses said. Residents said U.S. forces were shelling from positions outside the city, and helicopters were in the skies, but the U.S. military could not immediately be reached to comment.
One Marine helicopter made an emergency landing, but no one was wounded.
Firing on convoy
U.S. forces manning a checkpoint opened fire on local government convoy that included Fallujah's mayor and police chief that was trying to meet the Americans to discuss the violence, said an Iraqi police lieutenant, speaking on condition of anonymity. The convoy turned back, and no injuries were reported.
A motorist who drove through Fallujah this morning said Iraqi police and insurgents were cooperating, chatting amicably along the streets, and seemed to be working together.
U.S. forces launched two airstrikes on Fallujah in recent days against what they said were safehouses of al-Zarqawi, whose group claimed responsibility for the beheading of American hostage Nicholas Berg and Kim Sun-il, a South Korean whose decapitated body was found Tuesday between Baghdad and Fallujah.
On Tuesday, an audiotape posted on an Islamic Web site attributed to al-Zarqawi threatened to assassinate Iraq's interim prime minister, Iyad Allawi.
Americans killed in April
U.S. Marines besieged Fallujah for three weeks in April after four American civilian contractors working for the Blackwater USA security company were ambushed and killed, their bodies mutilated and hung from a Euphrates river bridge.
The city has been relatively calm since Marines announced a deal to end the siege that created the Fallujah Brigade, commanded by officers from Saddam Hussein's army.
Although the Fallujah Brigade patrols the city, hard-line clerics and fighters who held off the Marines still control the town.
Iran turns over Brits
In Iran, eight British servicemen who were detained after their boats strayed into Iranian territorial waters have been turned over to British diplomats, officials said today.
Protesters angry about the occupation of Iraq tried to approach the six Royal Marines and two sailors as they arrived at Tehran's airport accompanied by British consular officers, but they were kept away by police.
The eight were detained Monday after their boats apparently strayed into the Iranian side of the Shatt al-Arab waterway, or Arvand River, which runs along the Iran-Iraq border, while delivering a patrol boat to Iraq's new river police.
Iran also briefly detained, investigated and then released an unspecified number of Turkish troops who had strayed across the border "by mistake," state-run television reported today.