- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 27, 2005

BAGHDAD — Eleven Iraqis and one U.S. Marine were killed yesterday as insurgents clashed with U.S. troops and terrorists blew up a school slated to serve as a polling center — pre-election violence that followed the deadliest day for U.S. troops since the start of the war.

A U.S. soldier also died in an accident.

The Marine was killed and five others were injured when insurgents launched mortars at their base near Iskandariyah, about 30 miles south of Baghdad.

In the capital, U.S. and Iraqi troops clashed with insurgents on Haifa street in the center of the city, witnesses reported.

The attacks came after 30 U.S. Marines and a Navy sailor died when a helicopter crashed in bad weather in Iraq’s western desert on Wednesday, and six U.S. troops were killed in insurgent ambushes.

Attacks have increased ahead of national elections on Sunday, when Iraqis will choose a 275-member legislature and provincial councils across the country in the first balloting since the 2003 ouster of dictator Saddam Hussein.

Sunni Muslim terrorists have vowed to kill voters and election workers, fearing victory at the polls by the Shi’ite Muslim majority.

U.S. soldiers stepped up operations, moving to forward positions around Baghdad, where they will stay until the end of balloting, and tightening security at their main bases, a brigade commander said.

The interim government will deploy an additional 2,500 troops to help guard the elections, the Defense Ministry said. A total of 300,000 Iraqi and multinational troops will provide security, with Iraq’s U.S.-trained forces taking the lead role.

About 9,000 Iraqi troops also are being dispatched to guard oil pipelines, which insurgents repeatedly have targeted.

Hundreds of U.S. soldiers assigned to the Louisiana National Guard’s 256th Brigade moved out from Camp Liberty, located near Baghdad’s main airport, to take up positions at smaller bases around the city.

U.S. troops will not be positioned at voting sites; instead Iraqi forces will be on guard there. But deploying more troops outside the main, heavily guarded bases will enable them to respond quickly if needed, Brig. Gen. John Basilica said.

“We’re hoping to enable the Iraqi security forces to be successful in defending the polling sites so their countrymen can vote,” said Gen. Basilica, the commander of the Lafayette, La.-based brigade. “It’s a critical time for them.”

Three Iraqi civilians were killed yesterday in a house in Samarra, north of Baghdad, in a car bombing nearby, said Alaadin Mohammed, a doctor at the local hospital. Hours later, mortar shells fell on a polling station in Samarra, police said.

Also in Samarra, armed men blew up a school administration building after ordering the staff to leave, said police Lt. Qassim Mohammed.

Attacks on police and civilians were reported in the northern cities of Kirkuk and Beiji; in Mahmoudiya; and in the Sunni Triangle cities of Baqouba and Ramadi.

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