Troops Kill 8 Iraqis After Convoy Bombed
By BASSEM MROUE
BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) - U.S. troops opened fire near a checkpoint after their convoy was hit by a roadside bomb, and a hospital official said Sunday at least eight people were killed in the second mistaken American attack in two days to have deadly results.
South of Baghdad, seven Ukrainian soldiers and one from Kazakhstan were killed in an apparently accidental explosion at an ammunition dump.
U.S. officials said they had no information about the shooting at the checkpoint, which occurred overnight Saturday. Interior Ministry spokesman Col. Adnan Abdul-Rahman said a U.S. convoy was hit by a roadside bomb near a police checkpoint in Yussifiyah, nine miles south of Baghdad, and troops opened fire, killing two police officers and three civilians.
Dr. Anmar Abdul-Hadi of the al-Yarmouk hospital said eight people were killed in the attack and 12 were wounded.
American commanders recently said they were changing tactics in the way they respond to roadside bombings. Rather than pushing on after the blast, they now stop and try to engage the perpetrators, who may have detonated the explosives remotely.
The attack came just hours after the United States acknowledged dropping a 500-pound bomb on the wrong house during a search for terror suspects outside the northern city of Mosul. The military said in a statement that five people were killed.
The owner of the house, Ali Yousef, said 14 people were killed when the bomb hit at about 2 a.m. Saturday in the town of Aitha, 30 miles south of Mosul. An Associated Press photographer at the scene said the dead included seven children and seven adults. The discrepancy between the death counts could not be reconciled.
Such attacks are exactly what the United States does not want with national elections scheduled for Jan. 30.
On Sunday, Secretary of State Colin Powell was asked on ABC's ``This Week'' how he would define success in Iraq's election, and he acknowledged concern about what will happen after the vote.
``Success is putting in place a government that is really elected and represents all of the people of Iraq ... and creating an Iraqi security force that is able to protect the country and protect the people of Iraq,'' he said.
Also Sunday, a U.S. soldier assigned to the Task Force Baghdad was killed in a roadside bomb explosion, the military said, although it did not say where the attack occurred. The name of the soldier was withheld pending notification of next of kin.
At least 1,352 members of the U.S. military have died since the beginning of the Iraq war in March 2003, according to an Associated Press count.
The deputy police chief of Samarra, Col. Mohammed Mudhafir, was killed in a drive-by shooting Sunday. Mudhafir was driving alone and was dressed in civilian clothes when he was killed by unknown assailants, Samarra police Maj. Raed Ahmed said.
Few details were known about the explosion that killed the Ukrainian and Kazakh soldiers. The U.S. military said in a statement late Sunday that the soldiers, with an ordnance disposal team, were cleaning up the ammunition dump.
Lt. Col. Artur Domanski, a Polish military spokesman in Iraq, said the explosion occurred at about noon at an ammunition dump about six miles south of Suwaira. Eleven soldiers were wounded - seven Ukrainians and four Kazakhs, he said.
Ukraine's Defense Ministry said the soldiers were loading aviation bombs when one of the devices exploded. Domanski said an investigation into the cause of the blast was underway.
Ukraine serves in a Polish-led contingent in south-central Iraq and is the fourth-largest contributor of troops to the U.S.-led war effort with 1,650 soldiers. Kazakhstan has sent a 27-strong contingent of military engineers to Iraq and is the only Central Asian nation to contribute troops.
Nine Ukrainian soldiers have died in Iraq, including three in combat, and more than 20 have been wounded.
The violence came after a senior U.S. Embassy official in Iraq met Saturday with leaders of the Association of Muslim Scholars, a powerful Sunni Arab group, to apply political pressure against their threat to boycott Jan. 30 elections.
On Sunday, a spokesman for the group said its members told the United States the association would abandon its call for an election boycott if the United States gave a timetable for withdrawing multinational forces.
It is extremely unlikely the United States would consider giving such a timetable.
In the election - the first democratic vote in Iraq since the country was formed in 1932 - the Sunnis are certain to lose their dominance to the Shiites, who comprise 60 percent of Iraq's 26 million people. Sunni leaders have urged that the vote be postponed, largely because areas of Iraq where they dominate are far too restive for preparations to begin.
The Bush administration insists the vote go ahead as scheduled.
In what appeared to be another effort to persuade Sunni Muslims to participate in this month's vote, interim Prime Minister Ayad Allawi met Saturday with 116 tribal leaders, clerics and political personalities from the restive provinces of Anbar, Salahuddine and Nineva, his office said in a statement.
The guests expressed their support ``to the democratic process in Iraq and cooperation with the government to stand against violence and terrorism,'' the statement said.
Britain also is expected to announce next week that it will send an extra 650 soldiers to Iraq to bolster security for the elections, a London newspaper reported.
The Sunday Telegraph said the deployment of a battalion of Royal Highland Fusiliers would boost British troop levels in Iraq to about 9,000. A Defense Ministry spokesman confirmed that the 650-strong battalion was on standby.