- The Washington Times - Monday, December 6, 2004

BAGHDAD — Gunmen yesterday killed an Iraqi civilian working for coalition forces on a dangerous street in central Baghdad within blocks of Iraq’s most fortified facilities, including the U.S. Embassy and the interim Iraqi government headquarters.

Five U.S. troops were killed earlier in the volatile Anbar province.

A dawn attack on a domestic oil pipeline supplying fuel from northern Iraq to Baghdad and clashes that killed three terrorists in the turbulent west underlined the security difficulties ahead of national elections scheduled for Jan. 30.

Heavily armed insurgents have been emboldened by a recent spate of attacks across Iraq that have claimed more than 80 lives, mostly Iraqis working for the coalition or Iraqi national security forces.

On Baghdad’s Haifa Street yesterday, witnesses said gunmen killed an Iraqi employed by coalition authorities not far from the green zone, a heavily guarded compound where American and Iraqi forces protect government officials, diplomats and private contractors.

Witnesses initially said the gunmen fought American troops. But the U.S. military said later that American troops were not involved.

Haifa Street has been the site of previous battles between insurgents and coalition forces. Despite their overwhelming strength, U.S.-led troops and Iraqi security forces have yet to secure areas surrounding the country’s most vital facilities.

U.S. troops and Iraqi police continued to be targeted by terrorists. On Sunday, attackers with machine guns killed 17 Iraqi civilians employed by the U.S. military in Tikrit, shooting them as they stepped off a bus to work at a weapons destruction dump.

The Ansar al-Sunnah Army, one of Iraq’s most feared terror groups, claimed responsibility for the attack in a statement on the group’s Web site.

The 1st Marine Expeditionary Force said three U.S. soldiers were killed Sunday and two Marines were killed Friday in fighting in western Anbar province, a region that includes the battleground cities of Fallujah and Ramadi. More than 1,270 U.S. troops have died since the Iraq war began in March 2003.

Marines have led major operations in the region, particularly in Fallujah, to destroy a network of Iraqi and other Arab fighters blamed for attacks on U.S. and Iraqi forces and the kidnapping and killing of Western hostages.

The violence — including a roadside bomb attack on a U.S. patrol in Baghdad yesterday that wounded one soldier — persisted despite offensives intended to suppress guerrillas ahead of the elections.

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