Gunmen shot dead five policemen in a drive-by shooting in the Iraqi capital today, one day after authorities said they’d found dozens of corpses – some bullet-riddled, others beheaded – at two sites in the insurgent-wracked country.
Gunmen in two cars opened fire on a vehicle carrying Colonel Ahmed Abeis, the head of a police station in central Baghdad, killing him and four of his guards, said police Captain Talib Thamir.
It was not known who shot the men, but Iraqi police and army troops, as well as top Iraqi politicians, are frequently targeted by insurgents because they see them as collaborators with US forces.
The shootings came after authorities announced yesterday that they’d found 41 bodies at two sites in Iraq.
Officials said some of the badly decomposed corpses were Iraqi soldiers who were kidnapped and killed by insurgents. But others were civilians, including women and children who may have been killed because their families were seen as collaborators.
Also yesterday in Baghdad, a suicide bomber in a rubbish truck loaded with explosives and at least one gunman shot their way into a car park in a daring attempt at dawn to blow up a hotel used by Western contractors. At least four people, including the attackers and a guard, were killed.
The US Embassy said in a statement that 30 American contractors were among 40 people injured in the massive blast. No Americans were killed. In an internet statement, al-Qaida in Iraq purportedly claimed responsibility for the attack on the Sadeer hotel, calling it the “hotel of the Jews”.
Iraq’s interim planning minister, Mahdi al-Hafidh, escaped death yesterday after gunmen opened fire on his convoy in the capital. Two of his bodyguards was killed and two others were wounded, he said.
“I’m fine, just sorry about the death of the guards who were still young,” he told state-run Al-Iraqiya TV. “It is a part of the crisis that Iraq is living, but we will keep going for the sake of Iraq, to get rid of terrorism and build a democratic country.”
The director general of the Shiite Endowment, Qataa Abdul Nabi, was killed late on Tuesday as he drove home. He was the second high-ranking member of the Endowment to be killed in a week, said Ali al-Adeeb, a spokesman for the conservative Islamic Dawa party.
Two other car bombings were also reported. One targeted an American checkpoint outside a base in Habaniyah, 50 miles west of Baghdad. Another car bomb exploded near US troops close to Abu Ghraib, just west of the capital.
No other details were available and the US military could not be reached for comment.
It was unclear if the dead US soldier was killed in any of the attacks. The US military only said without elaboration that a soldier was killed and another was injured by a bomb as they were patrolling around Baghdad.
Elsewhere, guerrillas struck a police patrol with a roadside bomb in the southern city of Basra, killing two policeman and wounding three more, Lieutenant Colonel Karim Al-Zaydi said.
In northern Kirkuk, a woman identified as Nawal Mohammed, who worked with US forces, was killed in a drive-by shooting, said police General Turhan Youssef.
Another three unidentified men were gunned down in central Baghdad and another was killed when gunmen opened fire on a bus, police and defence ministry officials said.
In northern Mosul, two police officers were killed and two others were injured in clashes with insurgents, officials said.
One group of 26 dead were found late on Tuesday in a field near Rumana, a village about 12 miles east of the western city of Qaim, near the Syrian border, said police Captain Muzahim al-Karbouli.
Each of the bodies had been riddled with bullets – apparently several days earlier. They were found wearing civilian clothes and one was a woman, al-Karbouli said.
Authorities were led to the find by the stench of decomposing bodies.
South of Baghdad in Latifiya, Iraqi troops made another gruesome discovery, finding 15 headless bodies in a building inside an abandoned former army base, Defence Ministry Captain Sabah Yassin said.
The bodies included 10 men, three women and two children. Their identities, like the others found in western Iraq, were not known, but they may have been killed because their husbands or families were viewed as collaborators.
Women are no longer safe even in traditionally-minded Iraq. Decapitated bodies of women have begun turning up in recent weeks, a note with the word “collaborator” usually pinned to their chests.
Three women were gunned down on Tuesday in one of Baghdad’s Shiite neighbourhoods for being alleged collaborators.
Yassin said some of the dead men in Latifiya were thought to have been part of a group of Iraqi soldiers who were kidnapped by insurgents in the area two weeks ago.
In the attack against the Sadeer hotel, al-Qaida in Iraq’s “military wing” posted another internet statement to its leader, Jordanian-born terror mastermind Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.
It said it carried out extensive surveillance of the hotel and “we have fulfilled our vow to take down the Jews and Christians”. In an alleged response on the same site, someone purporting to be al-Zarqawi replied: “You have relieved us by killing the enemy of God. God bless you.”
Another Iraqi militant group, The Islamic Army in Iraq, purportedly posted an internet video showing what it said were two Sudanese hostages abducted in northern Baghdad.
The two men identified themselves as Mohammed Hammad and Maher Attaya and said they were drivers working for a Turkish company co-operating working for US forces. The authenticity of the video could not be verified.