- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 1, 2006

BAGHDAD — Bombings and shootings killed at least 70 persons in Iraq yesterday in a surge of bloodshed as U.S. forces prepared to take back Baghdad’s streets from gunmen. The dead included 20 Iraqi troops, a U.S. soldier and a British soldier.

The American soldier, who was assigned to the 1st Armored Division, died “due to enemy action” in Anbar province west of Baghdad, the U.S. command said. In a separate statement, the military said a U.S. soldier from the 16th Corps Support Group died the previous day in a roadside bombing south of the capital.

In further violence, officials confirmed that about 45 Shi’ite Muslims were kidnapped over the past two weeks on the main highway to Syria and Jordan. The highway passes through Sunni insurgent strongholds west of Baghdad.

The deadliest attack yesterday occurred when a roadside bomb devastated a bus packed with Iraqi soldiers near Beiji, 155 miles north of Baghdad. All 24 aboard were killed, a Defense Ministry spokesman said. All but four of the dead were Iraqi soldiers, police said.

In Baghdad, 14 persons died and 37 were wounded when a car bomb exploded at a bank where police and soldiers were picking up monthly paychecks, police said.

It was the third major attack in less than a week in Karradah, a fashionable, mostly Shi’ite neighborhood in central Baghdad that is home to several prominent politicians.

The British soldier was killed in a mortar barrage before dawn yesterday on a British base in the southern city of Basra, the British Defense Ministry said. Britain has lost 115 troops in Iraq since the U.S.-led invasion in March 2003.

In the southern city of Najaf, Gov. Assad Abu Kilal said 45 persons from his province had disappeared while traveling by bus through the Sunni-dominated area west of Baghdad. A senior Interior Ministry official confirmed the claim.

U.S. troops yesterday arrested a Baghdad-area representative of radical Shi’ite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, whose Mahdi Army is among the most feared armed groups.

The arrest of Sheik Ahmed al-Ashmani was reported by Sheik al-Sadr’s staff, which said 10 other members of the cleric’s movement were detained. There was no confirmation from the U.S. military.

Meanwhile, gunmen ambushed a minibus carrying employees of a power station to their homes in the Shi’ite district of Sadr City, killing five passengers and wounding six, police said.

A car bomb killed seven persons — six of them civilians — in Muqdadiyah, about 60 miles northeast of Baghdad and a flash point of Sunni-Shi’ite tensions. Three Iraqi soldiers were killed yesterday evening when a suicide car bomber attacked a checkpoint in the northern city of Tal Afar, the Iraqi army said.

An Iraqi journalist working for the Iranian government-run Al Alam television was slain in western Baghdad. A Sunni Arab politician, Mohammed Shihab al-Dulaimi, was kidnapped in Baghdad, his associates said.

The other victims reported by police died in a series of shootings and bombings, mostly in Baghdad.

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