Scattered Attacks in Iraq Kill at Least 20
In one attack, four U.S. soldiers from the Multinational Division and their Iraqi interpreter were killed by a roadside bomb northwest of Baghdad.
Another bombing in Baghdad’s Waziriya neighborhood targeted an Iraqi police station, killing seven and wounding four bystanders.
Fifteen Iraqi Tae Kwon Do athletes and their driver on their way to a training camp in Jordan were kidnapped in western Iraq.
“We are negotiating with the kidnappers who are demanding $100,000 in ransom,” said Jamal Abdel-Karim, an official with Iraq’s Olympic committee.
The violence comes amid Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari’s last Cabinet meeting before Prime Minister-designate Nouri al-Maliki announces his final Cabinet choices for Iraq’s ministries. Al-Maliki has until Monday, the last of a 30-day constitutional deadline, to present his appointments.
Al-Maliki has said that he will inform parliament of his choice by Saturday, but may wait before announcing his defense and interior ministers.
His choices to head the defense and interior ministry posts are seen as the most important to forming the national unity government and restoring security to Iraq. The defense ministry runs the army while the interior ministry handles the police. Shias, Sunni Arabs and Kurds have been in dispute over the make-up of the unity government since elections in December, causing a power vacuum.
In Basra, police chief Gen. Hassan Swadi survived a roadside bomb that hit his convoy on the way to work Thursday morning. The assassination attempt came as Britain’s Defense Secretary Des Browne was visiting the 8,000 British troops stationed there. Despite the escalating violence in the area, Browne said, “Basra is calm, and British forces are working hand in hand with their Iraqi and coalition partners. Suggestions that the city is, in some way, out of control are ridiculous.”
Elsewhere, Al Jazeera television showed video of an abducted man, said to be Naji Rashid al-Nuaimi, the United Arab Emirates diplomat in Iraq. Al-Nuaimi was kidnapped Tuesday night in Baghdad by gunmen, killing his driver in the process. Although the video did not contain any audio, Al Jazeera reports that the kidnappers have demanded the closing of the United Arab Emirates Embassy in Iraq and the shutdown of a Shiite television station.
Southwest of Baghdad, seven car mechanics and their driver were killed when gunmen stopped their minibus on the road.
A U.S. sailor died Wednesday due to enemy action in Iraq’s Anbar province, bringing the total of U.S. military deaths to at least 2,455 since the invasion of March 2003.