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16 Iraqis, U.S. Soldier Die as Insurgents Launch String of Attacks

By Ellen Knickmeyer
Washington Post Foreign Service
Sunday, May 1, 2005; Page A18

BAGHDAD, May 1 -- Gunmen killed five Iraqi policeman at a Baghdad checkpoint early Sunday after a day of bombings and shootings killed at least 11 Iraqis and an American soldier. Also on Saturday, the U.S. military announced that four other Americans had died in hostilities on Thursday.

Three roadside bombs and three suicide car bombs exploded in the space of five hours in Mosul Saturday, killing five Iraqi civilians and wounding five Iraqi soldiers, another five Iraqi civilians and the U.S. soldier, the U.S. military said.

The Iraqi policemen were slain near a military college that now serves as a camp for U.S. troops, the Reuters news agency reported

In Baghdad the day before, a car bomb exploded outside the offices of a Sunni political group, killing three people. Police had raided the offices on Friday. The Associated Press reported five others were killed by gunmen and bombers in other attacks around Baghdad.

A rocket attack on a neighborhood in southern Fallujah killed three civilians, a U.S. military statement said.

Taken together, the attacks Saturday were less intense than those on Friday, when more than a dozen roadside bombs, suicide car bombs and mortar shells killed more than 50 people around the country. But the attacks still represented a high level of violence, highlighting the difficulty Iraq's two-day-old government faces in curbing guerrillas who seem to strike almost at will.

Gunmen ambushed a U.S. soldier Saturday in Khaldiyah, the U.S. military said.

The four U.S. soldiers killed Thursday died in a bomb explosion in Tall Afar, near Mosul, the military said.

U.S. and Iraqi forces discovered an apparent bomb-making factory this week in the area of Fallujah and Ramadi, one of the hottest areas of the insurgency, the U.S. military said.

The find included nine bombs already assembled, 180 artillery rounds, 4,425 mortar rounds, 80 mines and 600 grenades, in addition to ignition fuses and detonation cord, the U.S. military said. Bombs are usually fashioned from single mortar or artillery rounds. The cache was the largest found to date in that region.

Prime Minister Ibrahim Jafari, meanwhile, continued efforts to reach agreement with Sunnis to fill two key cabinet vacancies reserved for the disaffected minority: those of the minister of defense and a deputy premier.

A spokesman for Jafari, Laith Kubba said Saturday that a list of concerns raised by the Sunnis would be part of the government program that Jafari plans to make public Tuesday after members of his new cabinet are sworn in. The Sunnis have said they want the rebuilding of war-damaged Sunni towns, release of Sunni detainees and an end to discrimination in government employment.

When a reporter called Kubba's cell phone Saturday, one of the Sunni negotiators answered. "This is just to prove to you the point that we are talking," Kubba later joked to the reporter.

Meanwhile, U.S. military authorities released their formal report on the killing of an Italian intelligence agent by U.S. troops at a Baghdad roadblock. It said that the driver of the agent's car acknowledged at the scene afterward that he had been speeding as he approached the barrier.

The report, which was released after weeks of tension between Italy and the United States over culpability in the incident, concludes that U.S. troops acted properly and should not be disciplined. Italian accounts, however, say that the car was moving slowly and was fired on without warning.

Agent Nicola Calipari was killed March 4 as he traveled at night toward Baghdad's airport with Italian journalist Giuliana Sgrena, who had just been freed by kidnappers. Following his death, there were growing demands in Italy for the withdrawal of the country's 3,000 soldiers from Iraq.

On Friday, the U.S. and Italian governments announced that they had failed to reach the same conclusion in a joint investigation of the incident. The Italians are now conducting their own probe and have promised to release their findings soon.

"This was a tragic accident,'' Brig. Gen. Peter Vangjel, who headed the U.S. investigation, said in a statement accompanying the U.S. report. Lt. Gen. John R. Vines, a top commander in Iraq, upheld Vangjel's recommendation that no disciplinary action be taken against any U.S. soldier involved.

The U.S. probe concluded that the driver of the car, also an Italian intelligence agent, had been speeding, ignored warning shots and warning spotlights, and failed to slow down until a U.S. soldier fired a machine gun directly at the car.

Staff writer Caryle Murphy contributed to this report.

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