- The Washington Times - Monday, September 15, 2003

FALLUJAH, Iraq — Three assailants in red-and-white Arab headdresses gunned down the police chief of a city west of Baghdad yesterday in an ambush that underscored the perils for Iraqis who join U.S.-backed security forces.

The Americans hope those forces will gradually take over security from U.S. troops — part of the effort to transfer sovereignty to Iraqis. The attack came three days after U.S. forces mistakenly killed eight Iraqi policemen and a Jordanian security guard in Fallujah, the worst friendly fire incident since major fighting ended. Nine other persons were wounded.

The motive for the slaying of Khaldiya’s police chief, Col. Khedeir Mekhalef Ali, was not immediately clear.

“The three attackers opened fire with machine guns, shot one of the tires of the chief’s car and then approached the vehicle and shot him at least 25 times,” his driver, 47-year-old Rabia’a Kamash, said at Fallujah General Hospital, where he was being treated for wounds to his head and shoulder.

Khaldiya and Fallujah, on the main highway to the Jordanian border, are the heart of the “Sunni Triangle,” a broad swath of Iraq north and west of Baghdad where support for Saddam Hussein remains strong and guerrilla warfare against the American occupation is heaviest.

The Sunni Triangle includes Baghdad, where a 1st Armored Division soldier died of his wounds in a military field hospital yesterday after a rocket-propelled-grenade attack on his patrol before dawn, the second U.S. casualty in as many days. He was the 156th American to die in Iraq since President Bush declared an end to major combat operations on May 1.

Col. Ali, a former Iraqi army officer who had been police chief for two months, was attacked on the outskirts of Fallujah as he was driving home. In addition to the driver, Col. Ali’s bodyguard, Fouad Issa, 40, was wounded in the shoulder and back.

Col. Ali had taken over the Khaldiya force as U.S. troops pulled out of the town in July in conjunction with a general pullback from the region’s population centers including the flanking cities of Fallujah and Ramadi.

Two Khaldiya officers said a gang of car thieves was likely behind the killing of the police chief, but other policemen said officers are often attacked because of their perceived association with the American occupation force.

Meanwhile, in Saddam’s hometown of Tikrit, the U.S. military continued its raids, arresting five men suspected of helping to finance attacks against the American-led occupation force.

“These individuals are involved in financing Fedayeen activity and organizing cells of resistance against U.S. forces,” said Maj. Bryan Luke of the Army’s 4th Infantry Division. No shots were fired in the early morning raid.

Later in the day, delegates from the province of Sallahudin, containing Tikrit, elected their first interim council, the first such election in more than 30 years.

Of the 34-member council, 30 were elected by 120 delegates from the province, while four were appointed by the U.S.-led occupation forces.

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