June 26, 2005 in Nation/World

New insurgent attacks hit Iraq

Patrick Quinn Associated Press
 
Associated Press photo

Iraqis examine a car outside a home after a car-bomb attack in Samarra on Saturday.
(Full-size photo)

U.S. held talks, report says

LONDON – U.S. officials held secret talks in Iraq with the commanders of several Iraqi insurgent groups recently in an attempt to open a dialogue with them, a British newspaper reported today. The commanders “apparently came face to face” with four American officials during meetings on June 3 and June 13 at a summer villa near Balad, about 25 miles north of Baghdad, the Iraqi capital, according to the Sunday Times.

The Sunday Times said neither the Iraqi government nor U.S. officials in Baghdad would confirm its report about the talks.

Military officials in Baghdad did not immediately respond to a request by The Associated Press for comment on the Times article early Sunday morning.

The story, which quoted unidentified Iraqis whose groups were purportedly involved in the talks, said those at the first meeting included Ansar al-Sunnah Army, which has claimed responsibility for suicide bombings in Iraq and an attack that killed 22 people in the dining hall of a U.S. base at Mosul last Christmas.

Two others were Jaish Mohammed, or Mohammed’s Army, and the Islamic Army in Iraq, which in August reportedly killed Italian journalist Enzo Baldoni, the newspaper said.

One of the Americans at the talks introduced himself as a Pentagon representative and declared himself ready to “find ways of stopping the bloodshed on both sides and to listen to demands and grievances,” The Sunday Times said.

It said the official indicated that the results of the talks would be relayed to his superiors in Washington.

The U.S. officials tried to gather information about the structure, leadership and operations of the insurgent groups, which irritated some members, who had been told the talks would consider their main demand, a timetable for the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq, the report said.

The newspaper report follows accounts of indirect talks with the insurgents using Iraqi intermediaries.

A senior U.S. official said earlier this month that American authorities have negotiated with key Sunni leaders, who are in turn talking with insurgents and trying to persuade them to lay down their arms. The official, who did not give his name so as not to undercut the new government’s authority, did not name the Sunni leaders engaged in dialogue.

Members of the disaffected Sunni minority group are believed to be the driving force behind Iraq’s insurgency.

Associated Press

BAGHDAD, Iraq – A suicide bomber trailed by five cars loaded with armed insurgents slammed into a wall outside the home of an Iraqi special forces police officer Saturday in the Sunni triangle city of Samarra, killing at least nine people on the street, officials said.

In another attack in the same region, insurgents rounded up eight police at a checkpoint outside the western city of Ramadi, then marched them into their office and shot them to death, police said Saturday. The attack was on Friday.

The U.S. military also confirmed the deaths of two more Marines in Thursday’s ambush in Fallujah. That brought the death toll from the suicide car bomb and ensuing small-arms fire to at least four Marines with a Marine and a sailor still missing and presumed dead, the military said.

The lethal ambush on a convoy carrying female U.S. troops in Fallujah underscored the difficulties of keeping women away from the front lines in a war where such boundaries are far from clear-cut. At least one woman was killed, and 11 of the 13 wounded troops were female.

The attacks in Fallujah, 40 miles west of Baghdad, and Saturday’s suicide bombing in Samarra, 60 miles northwest of the capital, were startling indications that two major American military campaigns last year to eradicate insurgents in those cities may have failed. Both attacks signaled the reappearance of militants capable of carrying out sophisticated attacks.

The suicide bombing in Samarra targeted the home of Lt. Muthana al-Shaker, said police Lt. Qassim Mohammed. But the nine people killed were all on the street and al-Shaker was not injured, Mohammed said.

Two insurgents also died when a roadside bomb they were planting outside al-Shaker’s house after the attack blew up, he said. That bomb was intended to kill police and emergency services members when they arrived at the scene, Mohammed added.

Elsewhere, three mortar rounds struck a crowded cafe in a predominantly Shiite neighborhood in western Baghdad on Saturday night, killing five civilians and wounding seven more, police said.

Gunmen also killed two policemen from a commando unit patrolling western Baghdad on Saturday, police 1st Lt. Thaer Mahmoud said. In addition, Iraqi police found the body of a slain uniformed policeman in another section of Baghdad, his hands bound behind his back and plastic wire around his neck, police Capt. Mohammed Izz al-Din said.

In a separate incident Saturday, gunmen killed three policemen on a road about 46 miles south of Amarah, police said.

But it was the Fallujah ambush that may prove the most troubling for the military.

The ambush suggested Iraqi insurgents may have regained a foothold in Fallujah, which has been occupied by U.S. and Iraqi forces since they regained control of the city seven months ago.

The women were part of a team of Marines assigned to various checkpoints around Fallujah. The Marines use females at the checkpoints to search Muslim women “in order to be respectful of Iraqi cultural sensitivities,” a military statement said.

The female Marine killed Thursday was identified by the Defense Department as 21-year-old Lance Cpl. Holly A. Charette, of Cranston, R.I. Three male Marines also were killed, the military said. Charette was remembered Saturday as a popular high school cheerleader who liked helping people.

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