- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 12, 2005

BAGHDAD — Terrorists attacked a joint U.S.-Iraqi convoy in Mosul yesterday, killing two Iraqi national guardsmen a day after a similar attack in the restive northern city left three guardsmen dead.

U.S. forces detained six suspects in the Jan. 4 slaying of the Baghdad regional governor and six of his bodyguards, the military announced yesterday. Two of those detained in the early-morning raid Tuesday were directly involved in the attack, said Army Brig. Gen. Jeffery Hammond, assistant commander of the 1st Cavalry Division, which controls Baghdad.

In the city of Baqouba, northeast of Baghdad, gunmen fatally shot Jawad Ibrahim, an assistant to the mayor, as he was fixing his car, police said.

Mosul in the north has become increasingly troublesome for the U.S. military since a U.S. offensive pushed insurgents from their former stronghold in Fallujah. The car bombing of the U.S.-Iraqi convoy in the city yesterday also wounded two Iraqis.

On Tuesday, insurgents hit a convoy by detonating a roadside bomb and firing from a mosque, killing three national guardsmen. The troops were bringing heaters and other supplies to a school when they were attacked, the military said.

In a separate clash yesterday, insurgents fired on a U.S. patrol in southern Mosul, sparking a firefight that killed one attacker and injured another.

The attacks again raised questions about the Jan. 30 election for a national assembly. Iraqi officials have suggested people in hostile areas will be able to vote elsewhere if their regions aren’t calm enough for the vote.

Many Sunni Muslim clerical leaders have said the vote should be delayed because of the poor security. Yet in Egypt, one of the world’s leading Sunni clerics urged all Iraqis yesterday to vote in the election.

“Iraq’s Sunni and Shi’ite communities should take part in the Jan. 30 elections,” Grand Sheik Mohammed Sayed Tantawi, head of Egypt’s revered Sunni Muslim Al-Azhar University, said in remarks carried by Egypt’s semiofficial Middle East News Agency.

Sheik Tantawi, who is appointed by the Egyptian government, said that if Iraqis do not elect a responsible government, “catastrophes will continue taking place in Iraq.”

A predominantly Sunni group announced yesterday it will withdraw from the elections because its leader was detained and its calls for postponing the balloting have been ignored.

The 216-member National Front For Iraq’s Unity, a group of several Sunni tribes and political parties, complained that American troops have held its leader, Hassan Zeidan Khalaf al-Lahibi, since Dec. 31. It did not say why he was detained.

Meanwhile, a U.S. military official involved with reconstruction projects briefed reporters on the progress in repairing and building new water- and sewage-treatment plants, power stations and upgrading oil infrastructure.

Brig. Gen. Thomas P. Bostick, commander of the Gulf Region Division of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, said $4 billion has been spent on 1,550 projects, which also include work on schools, clinics and railway stations.

Still, in key sectors like electricity and oil, there are enormous funding gaps amounting to billions of dollars, he said.

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