BAGHDAD, Iraq – In the deadliest insurgent violence in weeks, militants stormed two police stations and a mosque in Baghdad on Friday, killing 30 people. In the northern city of Mosul, 11 militants died in street battles with American and Iraqi forces.
Roadside bombs in Baghdad and Kirkuk killed two American soldiers and wounded five others, the military said. The surge in violence indicates militants still can stage attacks at will despite a U.S.-led military campaign to quell the insurgency before Jan. 30 elections.
A car bomb detonated Friday near a unit of U.S. Marines on Iraq’s border with Jordan, causing casualties, said Lt. Lyle Gilbert, spokesman for the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force.
“A Marine guard fired on the vehicle closing in on a military position and the vehicle continued toward the Marine position and impacted an area that caused it to detonate,” Gilbert said. “There were casualties, but it’s too early to give in details of deaths and injuries.”
Jordanian terrorist Abu Musab al-Zarqawi’s group, al Qaeda in Iraq, claimed responsibility for a raid on a Baghdad police station and other attacks.
“The destructive effect that such operations have on the morale of the enemy … is clear,” said the claim, which could not be independently verified. It was posted on an Islamic Web site.
U.S. commanders and Iraq’s interim authorities hope to boost security in the mainly Sunni Muslim areas of central and northern Iraq before the elections. Sunni politicians have urged them to postpone balloting because of escalating violence.
The visiting NATO commander expressed surprise Friday that Iraq’s insurgency had proven so resilient by comparison with Afghanistan, where he said security has improved significantly.
“At the beginning I would have projected the opposite, with Iraq coming along faster,” said U.S. Gen. James Jones, the supreme allied commander in Europe.
The attacks in Baghdad began just before 6 a.m. when 11 carloads of gunmen attacked the police station in the western Amil district with rocket-propelled grenades and small-arms fire.
Insurgents killed 16 policemen, looted weapons, torched cars and freed about 35 detainees before escaping, police Capt. Mohammed al-Jumeili said.
Later, in the Sunni stronghold of Azamiyah, a car bomb exploded at a Shiite mosque called Hameed al-Najar, killing 14 people and wounding 19, hospital officials said.
Azamiyah was a center of Sunni support for Saddam Hussein, and the attack on the mosque may have been a bid by Sunnis to stoke sectarian strife there.