By Megan Greenwell
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, July 14, 2007
BAGHDAD, July 13 -- U.S. soldiers killed six Iraqi policemen and seven gunmen Friday during a street battle that began when the troops captured a police lieutenant accused of directing a Shiite militia group, the military said.
The pre-dawn raid in eastern Baghdad came a day after another clash in the same area that left at least 11 Iraqis dead. In both cases, U.S. forces were targeting Shiite militias in an attempt to curb their influence. Militiamen have infiltrated police units, and many members of the country's Sunni minority do not trust the police.
As troops seized the lieutenant, they came under fire from gunmen at an Iraqi police checkpoint, a nearby church and several rooftops, the military said. The soldiers returned fire, aided by an American aircraft overhead.
The chief spokesman for the Interior Ministry, which oversees the police, said he had received no information about the incident from U.S. officials and could not comment. The spokesman, Abdul Kareem al-Kinani, said three police officers were killed and nine others injured when an American commander mistakenly fired on a police checkpoint early Friday at al-Tayaran Square in central Baghdad. A spokesman for the U.S. Embassy said he had no information on that incident.
Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates said in Washington on Friday that no one has "ever made any bones about the fact that the training and the capability and the reliability of the Iraqi police was very uneven and in some areas a real concern."
Speaking with Gates to reporters at the Pentagon, Marine Gen. Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said U.S. soldiers and Marines will go after enemy networks regardless of where they lead.
"When they went to arrest this lieutenant, some of the police who were with him began firing on our folks," Pace said. "That turned those individuals into enemy and legitimate folks for our troops to take on in combat. The fact of the matter is that there are elements of the Iraqi police and elements of the Iraqi army that are infiltrated, and the Iraqi government is working very hard to work their way through that."
Also Friday, an Iraqi reporter for the New York Times was killed as he drove to work from his home in the Sadiyah neighborhood of Baghdad.
Khalid W. Hassan, 23, was the 110th reporter killed in Iraq since the conflict began in 2003, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists. Hassan "was a resourceful and brave member of our news team, who met the many professional and personal challenges of his four years on our staff with enduring good humor and optimism," John F. Burns, Baghdad bureau chief of the Times, said in a statement Friday afternoon. "He will be deeply missed by all his colleagues."
Hassan's death came the day after a photographer and driver for the Reuters news service were killed during U.S. military action in Baghdad. Iraqi police blamed American troops for the deaths, and the military said the incident was under investigation.
Iraqi police also reported that 26 bodies were found Friday in neighborhoods across Baghdad. The victims had all been shot in the head and tortured. An additional eight bodies, including three women, were found near Suwayrah, about 20 miles southeast of Baghdad.
A number of other Iraqis were killed in Baghdad on Friday, police said, including three civilians killed by mortar rounds that fell on their homes. Two civilians were killed when a roadside bomb detonated in the Shiite district of Sadr City.
Two Iraqi police officers were killed inside the Green Zone when four mortar shells were fired into the heavily fortified compound Friday, Iraqi police said. The attack was the second this week against the Green Zone, which houses the U.S. Embassy and Iraqi government buildings. Three people were killed and 18 were injured Tuesday, when more than two dozen mortar rounds were fired into the zone.
Staff writer Josh White in Washington and special correspondent Saad al-Izzi in Baghdad contributed to this report.