Bombing suspect killed in U.S. air strike
BAGHDAD – A U.S. air strike killed a man suspected of directing the Aug. 14 truck bombings in northern Iraq that caused the deaths of more than 400 people, the deadliest single terrorist attack since the American-led invasion of Iraq in 2003, military officials said Sunday.
The man, Abu Mohammed Afri, was a leader of al-Qaida in Iraq, U.S. officials said, and was responsible for the synchronized bombings that targeted the Yazidi religious sect, a minority that is neither Muslim nor Christian.
The Yazidi bombings leveled neighborhoods of crude earthen homes and shops, burying victims and overwhelming local medical facilities in Nineveh province. Hundreds of others were wounded and hundreds of homes were destroyed.
Iraqi and U.S. officials said the coordinated detonations of four trucks bore the trademark of al-Qaida affiliates.
Many Muslims view the Yazidi as non-believers for following pre-Islamic beliefs.
Afri was reportedly spotted while driving Sept. 3 in a remote area about 70 miles southwest of Mosul in northern Iraq. He and his driver were killed by weapons from a fixed-wing aircraft. Afri was identified by “close associates and detainees,” according to a U.S. military statement.
“This doesn’t bring back the hundreds of innocent Iraqis who were killed in the vicious Nineveh bombings, but the death of Abu Mohammed Afri does bring justice to many families,” said Maj. Winfield Danielson, a military spokesman.
Further south, a mob of masked and armed men attacked the police station in Hajaj, about 25 miles north Tikrit, early Sunday.
Leaders of the predominantly Sunni area established the police station in the past year after seeking greater cooperation with U.S. military authorities.
At least three police officers were killed before nearby residents, many of them armed, drove off the attackers. Ten of the assailants were reported killed and part of the police station destroyed.
Three more police were reported killed and four injured on Saturday night by a bomb targeting a police station in Balad, about 50 miles north of Baghdad.
U.S. military officials reported a soldier killed Sunday and two others injured during combat operations in the western part of Baghdad.