- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 3, 2004

BAGHDAD — Insurgents killed seven Iraqi security personnel in a car bombing and other attacks yesterday, and the U.S. military announced the deaths of six Americans, including four killed by guerrillas.

The American fatalities include two soldiers killed by a roadside bomb and two Marines who died after being wounded in fighting on Monday. Two others died in noncombat-related incidents. The U.S. deaths brought to at least 919 the number of U.S. service members who have died since the beginning of military operations in Iraq.

Also yesterday, saboteurs set off a bomb at a key northern oil pipeline, sparking a fire and sending huge plumes of thick black smoke into the sky. The explosion had no immediate effect on exports, which had been halted for weeks from the north.

Meanwhile, gunmen, apparently Sunni Muslims, shot at an office belonging to the movement of Iraq’s most senior Shi’ite cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Husseini al-Sistani, in the town of Yusifiya, about 15 miles south of Baghdad — an area of frequent insurgent attacks.

The Shi’ite residents shot back, killing six of the attackers and capturing three, said Col. Anwar al-Ubaidi, police chief of the nearby town of Mahmudiyah.

In Lahore, Pakistan, Sheik Rashid Ahmed, the government’s chief spokesman, told a press conference that his country will not send troops to Iraq, Reuters news agency reported.

He spoke just hours after President Pervez Musharraf said a decision would depend on what his people wanted.

“We are not sending troops. Other countries are withdrawing troops, so how can we send them?” Sheik Ahmed said.

The government long has been undecided on sending troops to Iraq, an explosive issue in the Islamic nation, where conservative religious groups strongly oppose Gen. Musharraf’s support for the U.S.-led war on terror.

In the city of Najaf, south of Baghdad, forces loyal to radical Shi’ite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr were holding 18 police officers hostage as leverage to force authorities to release their comrades, a police official said.

The 18 abductions in Najaf reflected increasing friction that has threatened a fragile truce that ended two months of fighting that began in April between Sheik al-Sadr’s Mahdi’s Army militia and U.S. troops. Marines and Sheik al-Sadr’s militiamen engaged in a battle in Najaf on Monday that killed a woman.

Najaf Gov. Adnan al-Zurufi confirmed that a number of policemen were kidnapped. Ahmed al-Shaibany, an al-Sadr spokesman, denied that any police officers were locked up in Sheik al-Sadr’s office or in any of his quarters.

The deadliest insurgent attack yesterday came in a car bombing north of the city of Baqouba, when a truck raced toward an Iraqi checkpoint guarding Kharnabad Bridge, officials said.

The truck attempted to merge into a U.S. military convoy heading toward the bridge, but a soldier driving one of the vehicles forced it off the road before it detonated, said Maj. Neal O’Brien, a U.S. Army spokesman. No U.S. troops were injured, he said.

The blast killed four members of the Iraqi national guard and wounded five others, said Maj. Gen. Waleed Khaled Abdulsalam, Baqouba’s police chief.

The U.S. military reported that two U.S. Marines with the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force were killed in fighting Monday in Anbar province, a volatile, Sunni-dominated region west of Baghdad.

One Marine was killed Monday, and the other died yesterday of wounds, the military said. A third Marine was killed yesterday after suffering a nonhostile gunshot wound, the military said.

A roadside bomb in Baghdad killed two U.S. soldiers and wounded two others late Monday, the military said. A third soldier was killed yesterday in a vehicle accident in Baghdad, the military said.

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