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Attack in Baghdad Kills 13 Shiites

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The Associated Press
Tuesday, December 5, 2006; 2:39 AM

BAGHDAD, Iraq -- Gunmen attacked a vehicle on Tuesday that was carrying employees of a government agency that cares for Shiite mosques in Iraq, killing 13 of them and wounding eight, the organization said.

The gunmen, traveling in one car, carried out the attack by intercepting the Shiite Endowment minibus in northern Baghdad on Tuesday morning as it was carrying the employees to work in the capital, said Salah Abdel-Razaq, an Endowment spokesman. Three other people on the vehicle apparently escaped injury, he said.

A similar attack occurred late last month in southern Iraq against the Sunni Endowment, the government agency that cares for Sunni-Arab mosques in Iraq.

In that attack on Nov. 30, gunmen fired at a convoy carrying an official from that agency, killing him and three of his bodyguards, police said. The attack, which also wounded two bodyguards, occurred in Basra, the largest city in mostly Shiite southern Iraq, a police spokesman said. Nasir Gatami, the official who died, was the deputy of the Sunni Endowment chapter in Basra. All the victims were Sunnis.

On Nov. 15, suspected Shiite militiamen kidnapped three employees of the Sunni Endowment in Baghdad, the agency said. At the time, Ahmed Abdul Ghafour al-Samaraie, the head of the Sunni Endowment, was quoted by Sunni-operated Baghdad Television as urging Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to work for the men's release.

Meanwhile, four U.S. service members died when a Sea Knight helicopter plunged into a lake in volatile Anbar province, the military said Monday, raising to 13 the number of American troops killed during a bloody weekend in Iraq.

It was the second military aircraft to go down in a week in Anbar, a stronghold of Sunni insurgents, although the military said mechanical problems rather than gunfire had forced the emergency landing on Sunday.

"The pilots maintained control of the aircraft the entire time," the military said.

A Marine was pulled from the water but attempts to resuscitate him were unsuccessful. The bodies of three missing service members were found in a subsequent search, the military said. Twelve other passengers survived.

The U.S. command said Tuesday it couldn't identify the four victims by name or service affiliation, but the Department of Defense identified one of them as Army Spc. Dustin M. Adkins, 22, of Finger, Tenn., who was assigned to the Group Support Battalion, 5th Special Forces Group, Fort Campbell, Ky.

The helicopter, from the Third Marine Aircraft wing, had the ability to land and taxi in the water in case of emergency. It came down in Lake Qadisiyah, a huge reservoir behind the hydroelectric dam at Haditha on the Euphrates River.

The deaths came on a weekend in which nine other U.S. troops were killed, including five in Anbar. The weekend's violence pushed the total number of American service members who have died since the war started in March 2003 to at least 2,901.

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