Senior Iraqi General Killed in Ambush

Iraqi soldiers clear wreckage after a car bombing in Mahmudiyah, outside Baghdad. Three explosions in the area killed four people.
Iraqi soldiers clear wreckage after a car bombing in Mahmudiyah, outside Baghdad. Three explosions in the area killed four people. (By Haider Fatehi -- Associated Press)
By John Ward Anderson and Ann Scott Tyson
Washington Post Foreign Service
Tuesday, March 7, 2006

BAGHDAD, March 6 -- The top commander of the Iraqi army division in Baghdad was killed Monday when his car came under small-arms fire while traveling through the capital, the U.S. military said.

Maj. Gen. Mubdar Hatim Hazya al-Dulaimi was one of the highest-ranking members of the new Iraqi army to be killed in insurgent violence. Under his leadership, the 6th Iraqi Army Division has been gradually assuming control of parts of the capital from U.S. forces.

His killing could set back security efforts in Baghdad, particularly following the recent outbreak of sectarian violence, according to a senior U.S. commander who worked closely with him.

"It could be a blow that takes a long time to overcome," said Maj. Gen. William G. Webster Jr., commander of the Army's 3rd Infantry Division, who oversaw U.S. troops in Baghdad for a year ending in January. "Losing a strong commander for even a little while in Baghdad could cause a further power shift toward what looks like the Shia control of the city."

Still, Dulaimi strove to cultivate strong subordinates, which could help the transition, Webster said. The Defense Ministry is expected to select Dulaimi's replacement.

The attack was one of the violent incidents across Iraq on Monday that left more than 20 people dead after a relative lull in bloodshed over the weekend.

President Jalal Talabani, meanwhile, announced that the country's new parliament, which was elected Dec. 15, would hold its first meeting on Sunday, the deadline set by the constitution for its first session. Lawmakers and political parties have been unable to agree on the composition of a new government, delaying the opening of parliament.

Dulaimi was killed about 4:35 p.m. in the western part of the capital when his convoy was attacked, a U.S. military statement said.

"Mubdar had been visiting his soldiers in Kadamiyah and was returning to his headquarters when his convoy came under small-arms fire attack," the statement said. It was not clear whether anyone else had been killed or injured in the incident.

"General Mubdar was a true Iraqi patriot," Maj. Gen. J.D. Thurman, commander of the Multi-National Division in Baghdad, said in a statement. "He leaves behind a professional and capable fighting force that will continue the fight for Iraqi freedom."

U.S. officials training the new Iraqi army hope it will take over combat operations in Iraq, enabling an eventual withdrawal of U.S. troops. Iraqi forces are currently in charge of security in about 60 percent of Baghdad. Only two weeks ago, Dulaimi had predicted that insurgent activity would decline because of the Iraqi army's operations.

"Because of the bravery of our armed forces that sacrifice themselves on a daily basis, the amount of insurgent activity will continue to decrease," Dulaimi was quoted as saying in a U.S. military statement.

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