Three policemen gunned down in Baghdad

Gunmen killed three policemen and a government worker walking to work in Baghdad, officials said today, one day after four suicide car bombings killed 22 people.

Gunmen killed three policemen and a government worker walking to work in Baghdad, officials said today, one day after four suicide car bombings killed 22 people.

Insurgents in a car opened fire today on a police patrol in the eastern New Baghdad neighbourhood of the capital, killing two policemen, said police 1st Lt. Ali Abaas.

In a separate attack in the same neighbourhood, police Col. Alaa Hussein was killed near his home, Abbas said.

Elsewhere, insurgents today gunned downed Maissa Jassim, a worker for the Iraqi Trade Minister, in the southern neighbourhood of Dora, said Dr Muhanad Jawad of the Yarmouk hospital.

Al-Qaida in Iraq reported that one of its “field commanders” had been killed by coalition forces in western Iraq, the terror group purportedly said in a statement posted on a website used by militants. The statement did not say when the man, Abi Salih al-Ansar, was killed.

Yesterday, four suicide car bombs killed 22 people, including an attack at the offices of Iraq’s electoral commission that killed five election employees and one policeman.

The commission said in a statement that it “affirms its determination to continue the electoral process,” including plans for a national referendum on a new constitution and balloting for a new government later this year.

The government also said yesterday that more than 90 people had been killed in a suicide bombing attack the night before near a Shiite mosque in Musayyib, 40 miles south of Baghdad. Hospital officials said more than 150 were injured in the blast.

Iraq’s most powerful Shiite clergyman, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, is deeply upset by the upsurge in suicide attacks, said Vice President Adil Abdul-Mahdi, a top Shiite politician, after meeting with the cleric yesterday

The cleric urged the government to protect the people in “this genocidal war,” Abdul-Mahdi said. At least 170 people have been killed in suicide bombings throughout Iraq in the past week.

In a BBC interview scheduled to be broadcast today, radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr said the continuing violence in Iraq was based in part on the presence of US and other foreign forces.

“The occupation in itself is a problem,” said al-Sadr, who led an uprising against US forces last year. “Iraq not being independent is the problem. And the other problems stem from that – from sectarianism to civil war, the entire American presence causes this.”

The US military also reported yesterday that three of its soldiers had died in separate bombings over the weekend.

The Iraqi Special Tribunal yesterday filed its first criminal case against Saddam Hussein for a 1982 massacre of Shiites and said a trial date would be set within days, despite US fears a trial would inflame tensions at a time the Shiite-led government was trying to lure Sunnis away from the insurgency.

The tribunal said the investigation into the July 8, 1982, massacre of an estimated 150 Shiites in Dujail, 50 miles north of Baghdad, has been completed, and the case was referred to the courts for trial. Saddam is accused of involvement in the massacre as retaliation for a failed assassination attempt as he drove through the city.

The date for the trial of Saddam and three others was expected to be determined in “the coming days,” said Raid Juhi, chief judge of the tribunal. If convicted, Saddam could face the death penalty.

Some US officials have quietly urged the Iraqis to proceed carefully in prosecuting Saddam as the Shiite-led government seeks to draw Sunnis away from the insurgency.

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