October 5, 2004
BAGHDAD, Iraq - Two car bombs exploded in the insurgent stronghold of Ramadi on Tuesday, killing four Iraqis and prompting clashes between U.S. troops and gunmen. In the northern city of Mosul, another vehicle bomb went off, killing three Iraqis and wounding four Americans.
Also in Mosul, three decapitated bodies - two Iraqis and an unidentified corpse - have been found in and around the city, a coroner said, the latest in a grisly campaign of beheadings by militants who have been snatching foreigners and Iraqis accused of helping the United States.
U.S. warplanes pounded the vast Baghdad slum of Sadr City overnight after an American patrol came under fire, the military said. Hospital officials said at least one Iraqi was killed.
Interim Prime Minister Ayad Allawi said the basis for an agreement to end fighting in the Shiite stronghold has been reached with followers of radical cleric Muqtada al-Sadr.
"I met with some brothers in Sadr City and we laid the basis for an agreement to end all their armed manifestations and to give up all their arms," Allawi told a news conference.
U.S. forces have been attacking Sadr City daily to knock out the cleric's militia and pressure him to lay down his arms in favor of negotiations. Al-Sadr's militia, known as the Mahdi Army, staged an uprising in April, sparking fierce fighting in Sadr City, the southern holy city of Najaf and other areas. A peace deal was brokered following heavy fighting in Najaf in August, but clashes in Sadr City have continued.
Near Baghdad, one soldier from the U.S. Army's 13th Corps Support Command was killed Monday night and two were injured when their convoy hit a homemade bomb, the military said. As of Monday, 1,058 members of the U.S. military have died since the start of the war in March 2003, according to the Pentagon.
Meanwhile, 10 Iraqi policemen were killed in two separate attacks by militants south of Baghdad on Monday, police said Tuesday.
Intensifying violence - including near-daily car bombs and persistent abductions - and the insurgents' dominance in several cities have raised concerns about elections set for January. Iraqi and U.S. leaders insist they will be held, although some officials have said voting may not be possible in the most violence-torn areas, which are largely Sunni Muslim.
A powerful group of Sunni Muslim clerics on Tuesday warned against leaving out parts of the country, saying it would undermine the vote and be tantamount to fragmenting Iraq.
"This could be a bad omen for the unity of the country because this means that (the excluded areas) would be separated from the rest of Iraq," said Mohammed Bashar al-Faidhi, a spokesman for the Association of Muslim Scholars.
In Ramadi on Tuesday, a homemade bomb exploded near the city's Grand Mosque as a U.S. military convoy passed. Four Iraqis inside a car near the explosion were killed and two bystanders were wounded, said Dr. Dia'a al-Haity, a doctor at Ramadi General Hospital. Marine spokesman 1st Lt. Lyle Gilbert said he had no reports of civilians killed, but he added that one U.S. soldier and seven Iraqi civilians were wounded.
Earlier Tuesday, another car bomb exploded in Ramadi, sparking a gunbattle between U.S. forces and gunmen. Al-Haity said two Iraqis were killed and four wounded in the fighting.
Ramadi, 70 miles west of Baghdad, is one of the Sunni Triangle cities where U.S. and Iraqi commanders are considering launching a new push to clear out insurgents ahead of the elections.
In Mosul, 225 miles northwest of Baghdad, a car bomb Tuesday hit a U.S. convoy, killing three Iraqi civilians and wounding four American soldiers, the U.S. military said.
Earlier, an Iraqi police officer 2nd Lt. Mohammed Ahmed, said three Iraqis were killed and several others were wounded when U.S. troops opened fire following the blast in the city's Yarmuk neighborhood.
But Capt. Angela Bowman, a military spokeswoman, denied U.S. troops opened fire on civilians in the area. The military said the convoy came under fire from a rocket-propelled grenade and small arms.
Mosul has seen increased rebel attacks recently, with frequent car bombings.
Its coroner, Riyadh Mohammed, said three beheaded bodies have been found in and around the city in the past two days. Two were Iraqis, while the third was unidentified, he said.
Kidnappers have severed the heads of several foreign and Iraqi hostages in the past months - including three Americans.
Besides those found in Mosul, the headless body of a police officer was discovered in the Kirkuk area north of Baghdad. Another headless corpse was found of south of Baghdad with authorities initially saying he appeared to be of Western origin.
The comments by the Association of Muslim Scholars - which is seen as representing many in Iraq's Sunni minority - reflected that community's fears of being left out of the elections.
"Such elections would be unfair because many people in some areas would not be able to vote and their opinions would be neglected. This would affect the credibility of the elections," he said.
Allawi said last month that residents who might not be able to vote would be able to cast their ballots elsewhere. He did not elaborate.
Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage told Congress last month that elections must be held throughout Iraq, including areas beset by violence. But Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said if insurgents prevent voting in some areas, a partial balloting would be better than none.
Al-Faidhi, the spokesman for the Association of Muslim Scholars, also warned that a nationwide jihad, or holy war, could be declared if the killings of innocent civilians by U.S. and Iraqi forces continued.
He said his organization condemned the weekend attack on the Sunni Triangle of Samarra, in which doctors said at least 23 children and 18 women were killed. U.S. forces said they tried to minimize civilian casualties as they swept into the city 60 miles northwest of Baghdad.
"If these killings, extermination of innocent people, damage to their property and violation of their honor continue, we believe that the Iraqi people will be left with only one option, which is jihad, a popular uprising from the north to the south," al-Faidhi told The Associated Press.
Meanwhile, U.S. Marines have distributed $367,300 in condolence and damage repair payments in Najaf since three weeks of fighting ended there in August, the military said.
The statement did not specify how many families have benefited from the payments.
Condolence payments are made to express sympathy to those who were injured or lost relatives in the fighting. Collateral damage payments are intended for those who suffered damage to their homes, businesses or other property.
While Najaf has calmed since the uprising, U.S. troops and al-Sadr militiamen have fought almost daily in Baghdad's Sadr City district, home to more than 2 million people.
Hospital officials in Sadr City said Tuesday at least one person was killed in skirmishes overnight. Residents said they continued to hear loud explosions until dawn.
U.S. soldiers were fired on late Monday during a patrol in Sadr City, said Capt. Brian O'Malley, spokesman for the U.S. 1st Cavalry Division. They returned fire as U.S. AC-130 planes targeted insurgent machine gun crews on the ground, he said.
Abu Tar al-Kinani, the spokesman for the insurgents in Sadr City, said the overnight attack was a "liquidation operation" and an effort to keep al-Sadr's movement from taking part in elections.
On Monday, the former head of the U.S. occupation in Iraq, L. Paul Bremer, said the United States did not have enough troops in Iraq after ousting Saddam Hussein and "paid a big price" for it.
Bremer said he arrived in Iraq on May 6, 2003, to find "horrid" looting and a very unstable situation.
"We paid a big price for not stopping it because it established an atmosphere of lawlessness," Bremer told an insurance group in White Sulphur Springs, W.Va. The group released a summary of his remarks in Washington.
"We never had enough troops on the ground," Bremer said. But he insisted he was "more convinced than ever that regime change was the right thing to do."
Rumsfeld said Monday he does not expect a civil war in Iraq, and he pointed to the recent retaking of the former insurgent stronghold of Samarra as evidence of progress.
"I don't think it's going to happen," Rumsfeld said in New York at the Council on Foreign Relations, when asked about the threat of civil war. "But what has to be done in that country is what basically was done in Samarra over the last 48 hours."