37 killed in attacks across Iraq
Stumbling efforts to establish law and order in one of Iraq’s most violent regions suffered another blow Friday when dozens of gunmen raided the home of Baqubah’s police chief and killed his wife, two brothers and 11 guards. Four of his children were kidnapped, police said.
The attack came the same day that explosions in Iraq’s north and south killed 23 people.
Police Chief Col. Ali Jorani, who was not home at the time of the attack, is regarded by U.S. forces as a key ally in efforts to gain residents’ confidence in law enforcement in Diyala province. The military hopes to undo damage after months when Iraqi officers detained scores of military-aged men on little evidence and for extended periods without providing them access to the courts, said Lt. Col. James D. George, the acting U.S. commander in the region.
But Al Qaeda in Iraq and its affiliates have undermined local security forces, especially in Baqubah, the provincial capital, by targeting policemen and forcing police almost entirely out of some sectors of the city.
The bloodshed in the province is now greater than it has been at any time since the U.S.-led invasion. Proportionately, Diyala now is the deadliest place in Iraq for U.S. troops, trailing only Baghdad in the absolute number of American deaths.
Iraqi and U.S. forces are trying to win the support of more moderate insurgent fighters, and Jorani is viewed by many residents as an important negotiator in that effort.
The police chief’s home was overrun by the gunmen before dawn. Witnesses said the men came in a large number of vehicles but parked them a distance away from the home so that the sound would not raise alarms. They then approached the home on foot from multiple directions.
Jorani’s two brothers who were killed also were acting as guards, and the abducted children included two sons and two daughters.
Police provided details of the attack, but did not make any official comment on it. Jorani’s whereabouts were unknown Friday.
On April 23, the city’s previous police chief, Safa Atimimi, was killed with nine others when a car bomb exploded in a crowd of policemen.
In recent weeks, American forces have stepped up security for public officials, including the province’s governor, who has survived numerous assassination attempts, but it was unclear whether the police chief was among those with additional protection.
Meanwhile in southern Iraq, two bombs exploded at a bus terminal and a market in the town of Qurnah, 200 miles southeast of Baghdad, killing 18 people and injuring 42, authorities said. The area, said by some to be near the site of the biblical Garden of Eden, had not suffered any major attacks in recent months.
Salam Mohsin Maliki, a tribal sheik, said the town had not seen a major bombing since American troops arrived in the country in March 2003.
“I think the terrorists targeted Qurnah to send a message that there is no peaceful place excluded from terrorism,” Maliki said.
In northern Iraq, a Shiite Muslim mosque in a small town near the oil-rich city of Kirkuk was attacked, leaving five people dead and 14 hurt, police said.
Iraqi police Capt. Abbas Mohammed said the attack was carried out by a suicide bomber wearing an explosives vest and was followed by a car bomb.
Houses near the mosque were severely damaged. The town, Daqouq, is a mix of Turkmen, Shiite Arabs and Kurds.
In Basra, police said unidentified men assassinated police Lt. Ali Uday Zboon on a highway just outside the southern city. He was the director of intelligence operations at a police station.
In Baghdad, seven bodies were found in the streets, apparent victims of sectarian violence, police said.
Special correspondents in Kirkuk, Diyala province and Baghdad contributed to this report.