Eleven Iraqis, including six women and children, were killed Sunday when a suicide bomber set off explosives during a raid by American forces on a house in Mosul, the U.S. military said.
In a statement it said the bomb went off as U.S. forces exchanged gunfire with suspected insurgents and stormed a building in search of a wanted man. The military said it was unclear whether those who died, all believed to have been from one family, were killed by the blast, gunfire or a combination.
“As coalition forces entered the building housing the terrorist, they began receiving small-arms fire. Coalition forces returned fire once engaged,” according to the statement. “A terrorist detonated a suicide vest shortly thereafter in the house.”
Iraqi police and the local morgue reported that 11 people -- the bomber, three women, three children and four men -- were killed in the Mosul neighborhood known as the 17th of July. The police official said two of the victims were dismembered. He added that the bodies were delivered to the morgue by the Iraqi army and placed in nylon bags used by U.S. forces.
A nurse at the morgue, who asked not to be named, said, “Among the bodies we received, some were apparently killed by an explosion and others showed gunshot wounds.”
U.S. forces described the five men who were killed as terrorists. Two children, a 3-month-old and a 5-year-old, survived and were taken to a hospital.
A sweep of the house found a cache of small arms and explosives, according to the military.
“This is just another tragic example of how Al Qaeda in Iraq hides behind innocent Iraqis,” said Navy Rear Adm. Patrick Driscoll, spokesman for the multinational force in Iraq. “The terrorist exploded his suicide vest in close proximity to women and children, and in a house full of explosives and weapons.”
In other news, Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit announced in Baghdad that his country would reopen its embassy and strengthen business ties with Iraq. His was the first Egyptian Cabinet-level delegation to Iraq since Islamic militants killed Egypt’s envoy in 2005.
Aboul Gheit’s visit followed those by leaders of Jordan and Lebanon and was an indication that leading Sunni Muslim countries may begin restoring relations with Iraq’s Shiite Muslim-led government. Egypt, Saudi Arabia and other nations have been concerned about Iraq’s ties with the Shiite-run government in Iran, which Sunni nations blame for attempting to unsettle the region through its nuclear program and support to militant groups such as Hezbollah in Lebanon.
“Iraq has passed through a difficult period, and today we hope that we see Iraq outside this situation,” Aboul Gheit said. “Egypt has a confirmed desire to build a strong and active Iraqi-Egyptian relationship.”
Violence in Iraq has dropped dramatically in recent months, but the U.S. raid in Mosul underscored the danger posed by Sunni insurgents and the militant group Al Qaeda in Iraq. Since the U.S.-led invasion in 2003, Sunni fighters and Ansar al Islam militants have staged attacks in the city and plotted operations as far south as Baghdad.
Mosul, about 250 miles north of Baghdad, is a terrain of explosions, drive-by shootings, kidnappings, and raids by U.S. and Iraqi soldiers.
Gunmen killed five mourners and injured seven others Sunday at a funeral in Mosul’s Zanjili neighborhood. In separate attacks in the city, gunmen killed a butcher in his shop and a government customs worker. The Iraqi army in the Mosul region arrested a suspected Al Qaeda operative, seizing documents, 13 bombs and telecommunications equipment, according to spokesman Brig. Gen. Khalid Abdul Sattar.
In Baaj, about 80 miles southwest of Mosul, security forces arrested a Syrian suspected of making bombs, a police official said. The man was allegedly carrying $70,000, a pistol and three GPS devices.
A special correspondent in Mosul contributed to this report.