BAGHDAD, March 12 -- Gunmen shot to death three police officers and wounded a fourth Saturday at a funeral procession in the northern city of Mosul, police said. Meanwhile, Ukraine withdrew 150 soldiers from Iraq, starting a gradual pullout that officials have said will be completed by October.
The attack occurred as police were taking part in a procession for a colleague's wife and two children who had been killed in a roadside bombing in Mosul a day earlier, said Ammar Hussein, a policeman.
A guard protects protesters denouncing a deadly bombing Thursday at a Shiite mosque in Mosul.
(Mohammed Ibrahim -- AP)
Insurgents led by Sunni Muslims, a minority that was dominant under Saddam Hussein, are targeting Shiite funeral processions and ceremonies in an apparent campaign to spark a sectarian war. Last month, suicide bombers attacked Shiite mosques during the religious festival of Ashura, killing nearly 100 people.
On Friday, relatives gathered in small groups to bury 50 people killed a day earlier by a suicide bomber in Mosul. Plans for a mass funeral procession were canceled for fear of another attack.
The Ukrainian infantry company that was based near Suwayrah, 20 miles southeast of Baghdad, left Iraq and was expected to return home by Tuesday, the Ukrainian Defense Ministry said.
Earlier this month, President Viktor Yushchenko and top defense officials ordered a phased withdrawal of Ukraine's 1,650-member contingent from the U.S.-led military force in Iraq.
Seventeen Ukrainian soldiers have been killed in Iraq, and the deployment is deeply unpopular among people in the former Soviet republic.
Ukraine plans to pull about 590 more of its soldiers out of Iraq by May and the rest by October, the Defense Ministry said. Yushchenko said on March 1 that the pullout would be completed by Oct. 15, but Defense Minister Anatoly Gritsenko later said Ukraine might leave some troops in Iraq two months beyond that deadline.
Bulgarian military investigators, meanwhile, said that U.S. troops who killed a Bulgarian soldier had opened fire without warning but did not "deliberately" kill Pvt. Gardi Gardev on March 4.
The shooting occurred on the same day U.S. forces killed an Italian intelligence agent and wounded a journalist from the communist daily Il Manifesto who had been held hostage for a month by insurgents. The incidents have strained relations with Bulgaria and Italy, two of the Bush administration's few European partners in Iraq.
"Although the U.S. soldiers guarding a communication site have not acted deliberately, they have failed to identify the objects and opened fire without firing warning shots," the Bulgarian Defense Ministry's investigators said in a statement.
Bulgaria has a 460-member infantry battalion serving under Polish command in southern Iraq.
The U.S. military also announced that a U.S. soldier was killed Friday "in a non-hostile accident" in western Anbar province, a hotbed of insurgent activity. The military said it was investigating the death but gave no other details.