Fighting Flares South of Baghdad; Army to Investigate Iraqi Death
The gunmen arrived at the police station in Yusufiyah, surrounded the building and opened fire with small arms and rocket-propelled grenades, said police Lt. Sattar Abdul-Reda. The ten policemen inside were armed only with Kalashnikov rifles and pistols and fled the station, he said.
The attackers then entered the building, rigged it with explosives and blew it up, said Abdul-Reda.
Police in the town, 10 miles south of Baghdad, called for help from American forces when they came under attack, but the forces did not arrive until about five hours after the siege, the lieutenant said.
The incident was the fourth such attack on police stations in the last week. On June 5, gunmen killed seven policemen before blowing up the police station in Musayyib. The next day, gunmen believed to be loyalists of radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr fired at a police station in the Sadr City area of Baghdad. And Thursday, al-Sadr’s followers overran and ransacked a police station in the holy city of Najaf.
The violence against police stations is occurring as the U.S.-run occupation authority plans to hand over greater responsibility to Iraqi forces ahead of the June 30 transfer of sovereignty.
The latest attack occurred as al-Sadr, whose militia had been staging a bloody uprising against U.S. troops, called for a new start and an end to conflict in a sermon in the town of Kufa, according to witnesses, the BBC reported.
He also called upon the newly named interim Iraqi government to work toward the end of the occupation according to a timetable set by Iraqi officials, reported a Voice of Mujahidin radio correspondent present at the sermon.
Despite al-Sadr’s conciliatory message, his followers continued to fight in Najaf. In the holy city, hundreds of protestors marched toward the Imam Ali Shrine to express support for a peace plan on Friday. The cleric’s supporters blocked their way and fighting broke out between the two groups, according to the Associated Press.
The shrine was evacuated and its doors closed as a security precaution, witnesses said.
In Baghdad, a car bomb exploded on a highway in the Sayediya district as a U.S. patrol passed nearby, damaging two Humvees but causing no casualties, the AP reported.
The U.S. military said an American soldier died of wounds suffered in an ambush in eastern Baghdad Wednesday night. Four other soldiers were wounded in the attack.
The death brings the total number of U.S. casualties to more than 820 since the Iraq conflict began March 2003, according to the Defense Department.
Meanwhile, the U.S. Army said it is investigating the killing of an Iraqi man by a U.S. soldier.
The U.S. military said in a statement that the man was killed during a May 17 raid by U.S. troops on his Baghdad home when he tried to grab a weapon held by a U.S. soldier.
U.S. forces raided the home after the man was accused of bragging to his neighbors about murdering another U.S. soldier at a checkpoint, Reuters reported.