- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 30, 2004

From combined dispatches

BAGHDAD — A suicide bombing outside the house of a police chief wounded seven persons yesterday, as militants continued to target Iraqis working with the U.S.-led coalition.

Elsewhere, an American soldier died in a bomb blast, two aid workers for a U.S.-based Christian relief organization remain in Iraqi police custody, and Spanish soldiers and Iraqi police quelled a riot by job seekers.

Attacks against U.S.-led coalition forces increased in the past week, said Brig. Gen. Mark Kimmitt, deputy chief of coalition operations. He said there has been an average of 26 attacks daily, an increase of about six from recent weeks.

Despite the “slight uptick,” he said, the security situation remained “stable.”

In the latest assault, one U.S. soldier was killed and another wounded in a roadside bombing yesterday near Ramadi, west of Baghdad, Gen. Kimmitt said. The injured soldier was flown to a combat support hospital.

In Ramadi, a U.S. Humvee was hit with a rocket-propelled grenade, setting it on fire, witnesses said. Four soldiers in the vehicle were seen being rushed away in another Humvee. A U.S. spokeswoman in Baghdad, could not confirm the attack.

The suicide bombing occurred in Hillah, about 60 miles south of the capital near where a police chief had been fatally shot a week ago and nine police recruits had died when assailants sprayed their minibus with small-arms fire.

Police Maj. Ali Jawad said guards outside the house of Brig. Gen. Qeis Hamza, Hillah’s police chief, fired at the car when they saw it speeding toward them, but failed to stop the attacker.

Four of the seven wounded were guards and the others lived nearby, Maj. Jawad said. Gen. Hamza and his family, who were home at the time, were unhurt.

Meanwhile, in a case of mistaken identity, two Iraqi members of the World Vision staff in northern Iraq remain in custody after being accused of involvement in a drive-by shooting.

World Vision, a Christian aid organization, said yesterday that the police, after an investigation, had admitted their mistake and that the World Vision staff were not the culprits.

The relief workers were arrested March 22 while driving a car resembling one reported to have been involved in a drive-by shooting in which an Iraqi woman was killed. After an investigation, police determined that the World Vision employees were not involved.

However, the Iraqi judicial system requires the victim’s family to appear in court before a judge may declare an acquittal. The family was scheduled to appear in court yesterday, but the hearing was delayed. The men are expected to be released after their court appearance today.

In the southern city of Najaf, Iraqis demanding jobs threw stones at Spanish soldiers and local police yesterday.

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