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17 Iraqis Killed in Insurgent Attacks

Police and Civilians Are Hit Hardest as American Forces Pull Back to Bases

By Ellen Knickmeyer
Washington Post Foreign Service
Saturday, March 26, 2005; Page A11

BAGHDAD, March 25 -- Suicide bombs and a street shooting killed at least 17 Iraqis working with U.S. forces, ranging from U.S.-trained special commandos to female workers at a U.S. military base, the American military and the Iraqi police said Friday.

In the bloodiest of at least five assaults reported Friday, a bomber detonated a vehicle loaded with explosives at a checkpoint near the western city of Ramadi late Thursday, killing 11 members of an Iraqi police commando force. The attack also killed the bomber and wounded two U.S. soldiers and 11 Iraqi civilians and commandos, said Capt. Jeffrey Pool, a spokesman for the 2nd Marines Division.

A member of Iraqi security forces stands guard at the scene of a firefight in the northern town of Rabia. Police say that Kurdish militia members mistakenly opened fire at the forces, killing five. (Namir Noor-eldeen -- Reuters)

Iraqi forces are bearing the brunt of attacks by guerrillas combating the two-year-old U.S. military occupation and the Iraqi government-building effort it supports. U.S. forces are pulling back inside their bases in Baghdad and other regions as they try to shift security duties to Iraqi forces.

The 11 Iraqis killed at Ramadi were members of the 2nd Iraqi Special Police Commandos, among the most highly trained troops in the armed forces rebuilding effort, which the United States has identified as its top priority in Iraq.

U.S. Marines and Iraqi forces set up checkpoints in late February to screen trucks, cars, horse carts, cyclists and pedestrians moving in and out of Ramadi in an effort to halt the flow of guns and bombs into Anbar province, a Sunni Muslim-dominated area that is one of Iraq's most violent.

A second bomb attack on Ramadi's outskirts, on Friday morning, involved two men who jumped from a vehicle seconds before it exploded, the U.S. military said in a statement. There were no injuries, the military said, but the two men escaped in a truck.

In eastern Baghdad, attackers fired machine guns at a vehicle carrying female translators home from a U.S. military base late Thursday, killing five of the women, the Associated Press quoted Baghdad police as saying.

In Iskandariyah, south of Baghdad, a driver pulled his car alongside a convoy of Iraqi troops and set off explosives packed inside, killing one Iraqi soldier and wounding three, said Maj. Gen. Qais Hamza, the provincial police chief.

Meanwhile, a police commando leader who identified himself only as Abu Ghadab, or "Father of Rage," reaffirmed Friday that his men had killed about 80 insurgents in a raid Tuesday on an alleged guerrilla camp north of Baghdad.

Iraqi officials called the raid the most significant operation yet by its nascent security forces. U.S. officers have agreed the operation was significant but questioned the death toll, saying U.S. forces had seen no bodies. However, Abu Ghadab insisted that his men had turned over the bodies to U.S. forces and said the dead included more than 30 Chechens, Saudis, Afghans and other foreigners.

The Iraqi government, meanwhile, remained in flux. Negotiators said members of the new parliament hoped to meet Monday to announce a new government. The session would be only the second since the Jan. 30 elections. Haggling over cabinet seats has caused much of the delay.

Special correspondent Salih Saifaldeen in Hilwa contributed to this report.

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