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Iraqi Troops Attack Rebel Stronghold

Area Was Training Camp, U.S. Says

By Anthony Shadid
Washington Post Foreign Service
Wednesday, March 23, 2005; Page A11

BAGHDAD, March 22 -- Iraqi Interior Ministry troops attacked what the U.S. military described as a training camp for insurgents Tuesday in a rural stretch of the Sunni Triangle, the latest in a recent series of engagements with large bands of guerrillas.

The military said seven Interior Ministry soldiers and an undetermined number of insurgents were killed in the clash on the edge of central Iraq's Tharthar Lake, northwest of Baghdad. Six ministry soldiers were reported wounded.

The clash was one of several over a 24-hour period. A U.S. soldier was reported killed in western Iraq on Monday, and an improvised mine targeting an American convoy in the northern city of Mosul killed at least four Iraqi civilians Tuesday. Three were riding in a taxi and the fourth was killed in another car, hospital officials said.

Largely quiet after the U.S. invasion in 2003, Mosul has emerged as a flash point in the guerrilla campaign that the U.S. military has battled for almost two years. On Monday, insurgents tried unsuccessfully to kill the provincial police chief. Local television reported that in clashes that followed, 17 assailants were killed and several were arrested. Residents reported a heavy U.S. presence on the streets Tuesday.

The persistent violence has shadowed the naming of Iraq's transitional government, which many in the country view as crucial in bringing stability. The inability of the main Shiite coalition, which holds a slim majority of seats in the new parliament, and Kurdish representatives to name a government has generated resentment and some cynicism, particularly after the enthusiasm that greeted the Jan. 30 vote.

Insurgents have kept up attacks on Iraqi security forces, who are crucial to an eventual withdrawal of many of the 150,000 U.S. troops in Iraq. While those attacks have maintained a relentless pace in Baghdad and in the Sunni Triangle area to the north and west, the security forces have taken a higher profile in much of the country, especially in the capital.

In the clash Tuesday near Tharthar Lake, U.S. forces provided air support for the Iraqi troops. The military said an "early assessment" indicated that some of the insurgents killed in the fighting were foreigners.

It called the site a training facility. No U.S. troops were injured in the fight.

The military said at least 26 insurgents were killed Sunday when they attacked a U.S. convoy on the southern outskirts of Baghdad. Six U.S. soldiers were wounded.

Special correspondent Dlovan Brwari in Mosul contributed to this report.

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