- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 22, 2006

From combined dispatches

BAGHDAD — Insurgents stormed a jail at dawn yesterday in the Sunni Muslim heartland north of Baghdad, killing 19 police officers and a courthouse guard in a prison break that freed dozens of prisoners and left 10 attackers dead, authorities said.

As many as 100 insurgents armed with automatic rifles and rocket-propelled grenades stormed the judicial compound in Muqdadiyah, about 60 miles northeast of the capital. The assault began after the attackers fired a mortar round into the police and court complex, police said.

At least 33 prisoners were freed in the jail break, the Associated Press reported.

After burning the police station, the insurgents detonated roadside bombs as they fled, taking the bodies of many of their dead comrades with them, police said. At least 13 police officers and civilians and 15 gunmen were wounded.

A roadside bomb killed one police officer and wounded three in Baqouba, 35 miles northeast of Baghdad.

Five other police officers were wounded in two separate roadside bomb attacks in northern and southern Baghdad.

A U.S. soldier with the 4th Infantry Division was killed by small-arms fire while patrolling western Baghdad, the military said.

Also in the capital, gunmen killed an employee of the mayor’s office while he was driving in the Dora neighborhood, and police discovered eight blindfolded corpses, some of them showing signs of torture, officials said.

The execution-style killings have become an almost daily occurrence in a wave of sectarian violence that has left more than 1,000 Iraqis dead since the bombing last month of a Shi’ite Muslim shrine.

In southeast Baghdad, a roadside bomb blew apart a minibus, killing four pilgrims returning from the holy city of Karbala, where millions of Shi’ites gathered to mark the 40th and final day of the annual mourning period for Imam Hussein, grandson of the prophet Muhammad.

Otherwise, the commemoration passed largely without incident and the bomb attacks of the past two years.

In other developments yesterday, a U.S. Army dog handler was convicted of abusing Iraqis at Abu Ghraib prison and faces more than eight years in jail.

The U.S. military said it was investigating Iraqi police claims that its troops fatally shot a family of 11, among them five children, in their home at Ishaqi, north of Baghdad, last week. Soldiers said they killed four, including a militant.

“Because of that discrepancy, we have opened an investigation,” said military spokesman Lt. Col. Barry Johnson.

The probe began after a magazine published charges that U.S. Marines killed 15 civilians in another town last year. A criminal inquiry into those deaths was opened last week.

Residents of Haditha, west of Baghdad, told Reuters news agency yesterday that troops went on a rampage after a Marine was killed by a roadside bomb in November. The witnesses rejected an original U.S. account that the 15 also died in the bomb blast — a version also now dismissed by U.S. commanders.

Baghdad International Airport remained closed yesterday, and authorities cited the need to protect the Karbala commemoration. Jordan closed its border with Iraq until further notice to prevent people without valid travel documents from entering the country.

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