- The Washington Times - Friday, May 13, 2005

BAGHDAD — Militants assassinated an Iraqi general and a colonel on their way to work yesterday, part of a wave of attacks that killed at least 24 persons — including three U.S. soldiers — and wounded more than 90, authorities said.

U.S. forces continued an offensive aimed at followers of Abu Musab Zarqawi, Iraq’s most-wanted terrorist, in a remote desert region near the Syrian border said to be a staging ground for some of the deadliest attacks.

Zarqawi’s group took responsibility for the killing of Col. Fadhil Mohammed Mobarak on his way to work at the Interior Ministry. The claim could not be verified. Police said Brig. Gen. Iyad Imad Mahdi, who worked at the Defense Ministry, also was assassinated.

Two Marines were killed and 14 were wounded when an explosive device hit their troop transport vehicle during the offensive Wednesday. At least five Marines and as many as 100 insurgents have been killed in Operation Matador, which began Sunday.

Elsewhere, three American soldiers were killed and one was injured in separate roadside bombings yesterday.

Terrorist violence has killed at least 420 persons in two weeks, underscoring the intensity of the fight for Iraq’s future.

At the Pentagon, Gen. Richard B. Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, indicated yesterday that the insurgency could last for several years.

?This requires patience,? he said. ?This is a thinking and adapting adversary … I wouldn’t look for results tomorrow. One thing we know about insurgencies, that they last from three, four years to nine years.?

Attackers yesterday detonated four car bombs in Baghdad, including at least two by suicide attackers, said Master Sgt. Greg Kaufman, a U.S. military spokesman.

In the bloodiest incident, a parked car blew up in eastern Baghdad and set fire to shops and cars and damaged a nearby apartment, said Iraqi police 1st Lt. Mazin Saeed. The bomb killed at least 17 persons and wounded 81, with women and children among the injured, said police Lt. Col. Ahmed Aboud.

About 15 minutes later, the fuel tank of a burning car exploded, wounding three more persons, police said. Five civilians were wounded in two other attacks.

A crowd turned its anger on police and journalists, beating two Iraqi photographers. Police and U.S. troops fired in the air to disperse the crowd, according to an Associated Press photographer at the scene.

Two more car bombs exploded in Kirkuk, about 180 miles north of Baghdad, killing two and wounding four.

During the fifth day of Operation Matador, hundreds of American troops in tanks and light-armored vehicles continued to roll through desert outposts to root out militants. Residents in the villages of Karabilah and Saadah reported heavy bombardments by U.S. artillery or warplanes.

The U.S. military has confirmed five Marine deaths so far and says about 100 insurgents have been killed in the operation — one of the largest offensive since Fallujah was reclaimed from militants.

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