- The Washington Times - Saturday, November 20, 2004

BAGHDAD — In a day of widespread clashes across Baghdad, terrorists ambushed a U.S. patrol, killing a soldier, stormed a police station and gunned down four government employees yesterday. Nine Iraqis died in fighting west of the capital.

In the northern city of Mosul, U.S. troops found the bodies of nine Iraqi soldiers, all shot in the back of the head. The military first reported that seven of the victims were beheaded, but a second statement issued later yesterday said those reports were false. American and Iraqi forces detained 30 suspected militants overnight in Mosul, the U.S. military said.

Four decapitated bodies were found earlier in the week in Mosul and have not yet been identified, the military said yesterday.

In the insurgent stronghold of Fallujah, where U.S. Marines and soldiers are still battling pockets of resistance, fighters waved a white flag of surrender before opening fire on U.S. troops and causing casualties, Marine spokesman 1st Lt. Lyle Gilbert said without elaborating.

Al Arabiya television quoted Iraqi insurgents fleeing Fallujah as saying they had run out of ammunition and many fighters who stayed behind were badly wounded.

In a positive development, a Polish woman abducted last month in Baghdad reappeared yesterday in Poland after being unexpectedly released. Teresa Borcz Khalifa, 54, refused to say how she was freed, but said her captors treated her “properly.”

The widespread clashes in Baghdad and other areas of central and northern Iraq underscored the perilous state of security in this country little more than two months before vital national elections.

One American soldier was killed and nine were wounded in an ambush in the central part of the capital. Five other U.S. soldiers were injured in a car bombing on the road to Baghdad’s airport.

The heaviest fighting in the capital took place in the Azamiyah district, a largely Sunni Arab quarter, where insurgents fired rocket-propelled grenades and small weapons at a police station, killing one policeman, Iraqi officials said.

Anger among Sunnis rose after Iraqi troops backed by U.S. soldiers Friday raided the Abu Hanifa mosque in Azamiyah — one of the most revered sites in Sunni Islam. Three worshippers were killed, witnesses said.

A number of U.S. armored vehicles were seen in flames, including a U.S. Army Humvee with what appeared to be a body in the driver’s seat. Smoke rose from burning shops along a commercial street as U.S. helicopters circled overhead and ambulances raced to the scene.

The U.S. command said the American soldier died when his patrol came under a coordinated attack including small-arms fire, rocket-propelled grenades and roadside bombs. The statement did not specify where the attack occurred or whether it was part of the Azamiyah fighting.

Clashes also erupted in the Amiriyah neighborhood of western Baghdad, long a center of insurgent activity in the capital, after three Iraqi national guardsmen were killed by roadside bombs, policeman Akram al-Azzawi said.

A suicide driver blew up his vehicle shortly after noon at an intersection on Saadoun Street, a bustling commercial street. One Iraqi civilian was killed and another wounded in the blast, which sent black smoke rising above the city center and set several cars ablaze.

Gunmen chased down a vehicle carrying employees of the Ministry of Public Works on their way to work, opened fire and killed four of them, a ministry spokesman said. Amal Abdul-Hameed, an adviser to the ministry in charge of urban planning, and three employees from her office died, said spokesman Jassim Mohammed Salim.

To the west of the capital, U.S. troops clashed with insurgents near the local government building in Ramadi, and hospital officials said nine Iraqis were killed and five were wounded.

Earlier in the day, U.S. troops sealed off roads and began a house-to-house search of the city’s Tamim neighborhood as U.S. helicopters flew overhead, playing loudspeakers urging residents to “hand over terrorists,” according to police Lt. Jamal Abdul-Kareem.

Elsewhere, saboteurs blew up an oil well near the northern city of Kirkuk — the sixth such attack in the past 10 days, oil officials said.

Clashes occurred between U.S. troops and insurgents in Qaim along the Syrian border and in Samarra, where mortar shells struck a U.S. base but caused no casualties. Five Iraqis were hurt in the Qaim fighting, the local hospital reported.

In Baqouba, 35 miles northeast of Baghdad, police said gunmen killed an Iraqi police colonel and his driver as they were traveling south to Baghdad.

Violence surged in Sunni areas of central and northern Iraq after U.S. and Iraqi forces launched a major attack Nov. 8 on terrorist stronghold Fallujah in hopes of restoring order so that national elections can be held at the end of January.

But many terrorists are believed to have fled the city to continue attacks elsewhere.

Jordanian terror mastermind Abu Musab Zarqawi, responsible for numerous car bombings and beheadings of foreign hostages, is among those believed to have escaped Fallujah. Iraqi Brig. Gen. Anwar Mohammed Amin said he had seen various reports placing Zarqawi in the Tuz Kharmato area south of Kirkuk and in the Baqouba area.

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