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3 Turkish Officers, Iraqi Killed in Mosul Ambush

Times Staff Writer

Masked gunmen in the turbulent Iraqi city of Mosul ambushed a car carrying Turkish police officers Friday, shooting three people to death and decapitating a fourth who tried to escape, witnesses said.

In a daytime attack reminiscent of the killing in March of four American security contractors in the city of Fallouja, militants looted the weapons of the three officers and set the car ablaze before fleeing.

After the attack, residents stood around the burning white Chevrolet Caprice as the bodies lay in the street.

For six weeks, violence has surged in Mosul, transforming Iraq’s third-largest city from a relatively quiet spot into a battleground between U.S. forces and insurgents.

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Militants have attacked police stations, detonated car bombs and killed dozens of local security personnel and civilians. Over the last week, eight bodies have been discovered in the area. Several had gunshot wounds to the head and their hands tied behind their backs. The bodies were dumped beside roads.

In the attack Friday, two passengers were wounded in a second car, which escaped, officials and witnesses said.

One of the occupants of the first car appeared to have been an Iraqi. A witness, Qutaiba Mohammed, told Agence France-Presse that the driver pleaded for his life before being shot.

“I’m an Iraqi, from Baghdad, don’t shoot!” Mohammed said he heard the man scream.

The Turkish police officers had been providing security for the Turkish Embassy in Baghdad and probably were returning home, a U.S. official said. Turkish Embassy officials could not be reached for comment Friday.

The ambush came as Turkey was celebrating a long-awaited invitation from the European Union to hold membership talks.

Mosul emerged as a hot spot after U.S. and Iraqi troops invaded Fallouja last month.

Intelligence officials say many insurgents and foreign militants operating in Iraq have shifted from besieged Fallouja and surrounding Al Anbar province to Mosul, about 225 miles north of the capital.

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The Mosul region “is right at the tipping point,” said another U.S. official, who requested anonymity. “It’s a very bad situation. It’s teetering back and forth, on the edge of being a second Anbar, a full-scale war.”

But U.S. military officials reiterated Friday that the invasion of Fallouja had weakened the insurgency, even though pockets of resistance remain. Troops last month stepped up their operations in Mosul to prevent militants from taking control of the city.

“Nobody said that once we finished with Fallouja that it would all be over,” said Lt. Col. Steve Boylon, a military spokesman. “The insurgency is still the hardest battle to fight, especially in an urban environment.”

Separately, insurgents battled Iraqi security forces in Kirkuk, where ethnic tensions between Kurds and Arabs have long simmered. Militants and national guardsmen clashed in the city center Friday night.

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One bystander, a female teacher, was reported killed in the crossfire.

Times staff writer Alissa J. Rubin in Baghdad and special correspondent Roaa Ahmed in Mosul contributed to this report.


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