BAGHDAD – Eleven Iraqis, including six women and children, were killed Sunday when a suicide bomber set off explosives during a raid by U.S. forces on a house in Mosul, the U.S. military said.
A military statement said the bomb detonated as U.S. forces exchanged gunfire with suspected insurgents and stormed a building in search of a wanted man. The military said it was unclear whether those who died, all believed to be from one family, were killed by the explosion, gunfire or a combination.
“As coalition forces entered the building housing the terrorist, they began receiving small-arms fire. Coalition forces returned fire once engaged,” according to the statement. “A terrorist detonated a suicide vest shortly thereafter in the house.”
Iraqi police and the local morgue reported that 11 people, including the bomber, three women, three children and four men were killed in the Mosul neighborhood known as the 17th of July. The police official said two of the victims were dismembered. He added that the bodies were delivered to the morgue by the Iraqi army and zipped in nylon bags used by U.S. forces.
A nurse at the morgue, who asked not to be identified, said: “Among the bodies we received, some were apparently killed by an explosion and others showed gunshot wounds.”
U.S. forces described the five men who were killed as terrorists. Two children, a 3-month-old and a 5-year-old, survived and were treated at a hospital in Mosul, about 250 miles north of Baghdad.
A sweep of the house found a cache of small arms and explosives, according to the military.
“This is just another tragic example of how al-Qaida in Iraq hides behind innocent Iraqis,” said Navy Rear Adm. Patrick Driscoll, spokesman for Multi-National Force – Iraq. “The terrorist exploded his suicide vest in close proximity to women and children and in a house full of explosives and weapons.”
In other news, Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit announced in Baghdad that his country would reopen its embassy and strengthen business ties with Iraq. His was the first Egyptian cabinet-level delegation to Iraq since Islamic militants killed Egypt’s envoy in 2005.
Aboul Gheit’s presence followed visits by leaders of Jordan and Lebanon and was an indication that leading Sunni Muslim countries may begin restoring relations with Iraq’s Shiite-led government. Egypt, Saudi Arabia and other nations have been concerned about Iraq’s ties with the Shiite-run government in Iran, which Sunni nations blame for attempting to unsettle the region through its nuclear program and support to militant groups such as Hezbollah in Lebanon.
“Iraq has passed through a difficult period, and today we hope that we see Iraq outside this situation,” Aboul Gheit said. “Egypt has a confirmed desire to build a strong and active Iraqi-Egyptian relationship.”
Violence in Iraq has dropped dramatically in recent months, but the U.S. raid in Mosul underscored the danger posed by Sunni insurgents and al-Qaida in Iraq. The city’s resistance has been strong since immediately after the U.S. invasion in 2003, when Sunni fighters and Ansar al Islam militants staged attacks in the city and plotted operations as far south as Baghdad. It is a terrain of explosions, drive-by shootings, kidnappings and raids by U.S. and Iraqi soldiers.