Police: bombs and shootings kill 6 in Iraq
By SAMEER N. YACOUB,Associated Press Writer AP - Sunday, December 7
BAGHDAD - Bombers and gunmen targeted Iraqi police recruits and U.S.-allied Sunni guards in a series of attacks Saturday that killed at least six people and wounded dozens, officials said.
Iraqis, meanwhile, welcomed the U.S. indictments of five Blackwater Worldwide security guards in last year's shooting that killed 17 Iraqi civilians at a central Baghdad square.
The deadliest attack on Saturday was an ambush on a checkpoint manned by members of an armed Sunni group that has joined forces with the United States against al-Qaida in Iraq.
Gunmen opened fire on the checkpoint in the village of Ousoud, northeast of the Diyala provincial capital of Baqouba, killing three of the Sunni guards and wounding four, according to police at the regional security headquarters.
A bomb also exploded inside a Baqouba cafe that is frequented by so-called Sons of Iraq, the name given to the Sunni groups working with the U.S., wounding eight of them and 11 civilians, police and hospital officials said.
In Baghdad, a bomb attached to a police truck exploded near a popular vegetable market in a southern neighborhood, killing a Sunni tribal leader who was a member of a group that has joined forces with the Americans against al-Qaida, and his driver, police and hospital officials said.
The Sunni revolt in Iraq has been one of the key factors in a sharp decline in violence over the past year, and members of the group have frequently been targeted as insurgents try to derail the security gains.
A wave of violence also has targeted official Iraqi security forces following the approval of a security pact with the United States that allows American forces to remain in Iraq for three more years.
A suicide bomber targeted police recruits near a checkpoint in the northern oil town of Kirkuk, killing at least one and wounding 14 other people, police Brig. Gen. Burhan Tayeb Taha said.
The explosion occurred during a recruiting drive at the academy, another police official, Brig. Gen. Sarhat Qadir, said, adding that the aim was to recruit 1,000 people but only 150 were present when the explosion happened.
Ali Mahmoud, 24, a recruit, said the blast was so powerful that it threw him to the ground.
"The explosion caused panic and chaos. Most of the recruits were very young men and they were shivering in fear," he said.
Iraqi police acting on tips also found the remains of 27 people in two mass graves Saturday in separate areas.
A senior police official in Babil province said 18 were unearthed south of Baghdad near the former al-Qaida in Iraq stronghold of Arab Jabour.
The victims included two women and a boy and were all apparently killed by hanging more than two years ago, the official said, adding that rope was found among the remains.
Nine other bodies were discovered near the northern city of Tal Afar after a detained Sunni insurgent confessed to helping murder nine Shiite civilians about two years ago and revealed the grave's location, according to police and hospital officials.
The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they weren't authorized to release the information.
The U.S.-Iraqi security pact that was ratified by Iraq's presidential council this week would lift the blanket immunity currently granted to foreign private security contractors in Iraq.
That issue came to the fore after Blackwater guards opened fire in Nisoor Square on Sept. 16, 2007, killing 17 people in what witnesses said was an unprovoked attack. The shootings outraged Iraqis and embarrassed the United States, further straining relations between the two nations.
Five of the guards have been indicted and the charges are expected to be unsealed on Monday. A sixth suspect was in negotiations to plead guilty to lesser charges in exchange for his cooperation against his former colleagues.
Qais Rahim, a 44-year-old engineer in Baghdad, said it was important to hold those responsible "accountable for their vicious crime" to prevent other private security contractors from mistreating innocent civilians.
Rasim Hussein, a 55-year-old retired army officer under Saddam Hussein, said that other private security companies should be held accountable for wrongdoing in Iraq.
"This indictment is not enough because there are still dozens of criminal security company employees on the loose in Iraq," he said.
The Iraqi government has retained a law firm to pursue compensation for the families of the victims, spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh said.
Associated Press writers Qassim Abdul-Zahra in Baghdad and Yahya Barzanji in Sulaimaniyah, Iraq, contributed to this report.
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