- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 28, 2004

BAGHDAD — With car bombs, assassinations and raids on police stations, insurgents and terrorists killed at least 25 persons, including Iraqi policemen and a deputy governor, mostly across the volatile Sunni Triangle yesterday, and a militant group said it executed eight Iraqi employees of a U.S. security company.

The string of attacks — including one in which 12 policemen’s throats were slit at their station — were the latest by the insurgency and terrorists targeting Iraqis working with the American military or the U.S.-backed government ahead of the Jan. 30 national elections.

Brig. Gen. Jeffery Hammond, assistant brigade commander in the 1st Cavalry Division that controls Baghdad, said attacks by insurgents are expected to escalate in the run-up to the elections.

“We anticipate that the enemy will [continue with] attacks, intimidation, assassinations and other messages designed to destroy life in Baghdad,” Gen. Hammond said, adding that Iraqi security forces will bear the brunt of providing security for the elections and that U.S. troops will back them up only if needed.

Shi’ite Muslims, who make up about 60 percent of Iraq’s population, have been strong supporters of the elections, which they expect will reverse the longtime domination of the Sunni minority. The insurgency is thought to draw most of its support from Sunnis, who made up most of Saddam Hussein’s Ba’ath Party.

Near the deposed dictator’s hometown of Tikrit, terrorists attacked a police station, overwhelmed 12 Iraqi policemen there, slit their throats and then blew up the building, said Lt. Col. Saad Hmoud, a local police official.

The deputy governor of the restive Anbar province, Moayyad Hardan al-Issawi, was assassinated near Ramadi, east of Baghdad, police official Abdel Qader al-Kubeisy said.

The men who shot him left a statement next to his body: “This is the fate of everyone who deals with the American troops.”

The statement was signed by the group Mujahedeen al-Anbar, or “holy warriors of Anbar.”

Such flagrant attacks appear designed to cause panic among Iraqi officials and security forces and to provoke a sectarian conflict between Shi’ites and Sunnis.

Militants released a videotape yesterday, saying they have executed eight and will release two Iraqis who were employed by the Sandi Group, a U.S. security company, and had been held hostage since Dec. 13. The claim could not be verified independently.

The terrorists claiming to represent three Iraqi militant groups — the Mujahedeen Army, the Black Banner Brigade and the Mutassim Bellah Brigade — said in the tape that “the eight have been executed because it was proven that they were supporting the occupational army.”

The other two will be released because of lack of evidence, a statement read by one of the terrorists said.

In other strikes yesterday, a car bomb killed five Iraqi national guardsmen and injured 26 near Baqouba, a town 35 miles northeast of Baghdad, after the paramilitary troops cordoned off an area in order to disarm a roadside bomb, said U.S. Maj. Neal O’Brien.

In Baqouba, gunmen assassinated Capt. Na’em Muhanad Abdullah, a local police commander, and wounded three men, a spokesman said.

Elsewhere yesterday, a car bomb exploded in the village of Muradiya, about 20 miles northeast of Baghdad, killing five civilians and wounding dozens, said Ahmed Fouad, a doctor in the Baqouba General Hospital.

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