Attacks against U.S.-led coalition forces on rise

by Daniel Cooney

Latest bombings kill 2, injure 8

Daniel Cooney
Associated Press
Mar. 31, 2004 12:00 AM

BAGHDAD - A suicide bombing outside the house of a police chief killed the attacker and wounded seven others Tuesday. Elsewhere, a U.S. soldier died in a bomb blast, and Spanish soldiers and Iraqi police quelled a riot by jobseekers.

Attacks against U.S.-led coalition forces have increased in the past week, Brig. Gen. Mark Kimmitt said. He said there has been an average of 26 attacks daily, an increase of about six from recent weeks.

Despite the "slight uptick," he said, the security situation in Iraq remains "stable."

In the latest assault, one U.S. soldier was killed and another wounded in a roadside bombing Tuesday, Kimmitt said. The injured soldier was flown to a combat support hospital after the explosion near Ramadi, west of Baghdad.

In Ramadi, a U.S. Humvee was hit with a rocket-propelled grenade Tuesday, setting it on fire, witnesses said. Four soldiers who were in the vehicle were seen being rushed away in another Humvee. A U.S. spokeswoman in Baghdad could not confirm the attack.

It was unclear whether the attacks were related.

The suicide bombing took place in Hillah, about 60 miles south of Baghdad, near where another police chief was shot and killed a week ago and nine police recruits died when assailants sprayed their minibus with small-arms fire.

Police Maj. Ali Jawad said guards outside the house of Brig. Gen. Qeis Hamza, Hillah's police chief, fired at the car when they saw it speeding toward them but failed to stop the attacker.

Four of the wounded were guards and the three others were residents of nearby houses, Jawad said. Hamza and his family, who were home at the time, were unhurt. The explosion damaged the chief's house and those of his neighbors.

In East Baghdad on Monday, gunmen fired at an Iraqi police checkpoint, killing a lieutenant, police Col. Ahmed Iz-Adin said.

Guerrillas often target police because they view them as collaborators with the U.S.-led occupation, and they often make easier targets because they are less well-armed and protected than U.S. troops.

In the southern city of Najaf, Iraqis demanding jobs threw stones at Spanish soldiers and Iraqi police on Tuesday. Witnesses reported gunfire, and at least three police and two protesters were injured. Fifteen people were detained in the three-hour protest.

The demonstration began when 400 people gathered outside a government building to protest a delay in the processing of their job applications as police officers. They began throwing stones, smashing windows and burning a guardhouse, witnesses said.

The violence came a day after Carina Perelli, head of a U.N. electoral team, said better security is vital if Iraq wants to hold elections by a Jan. 31 deadline. The polls are scheduled to follow a June 30 transfer of sovereignty to an Iraqi government.

Top U.S. Administrator L. Paul Bremer said Tuesday that he had appointed 21 anti-corruption inspectors general to government departments to try to prevent fraud. More will be named soon, he said.

The inspectors will work with two other newly formed, independent agencies. Together, they will "form an integrated approach intended to combat corruption at every level of government across the country," Bremer said.

On Monday, Bremer flew to Muntheria, a post on the border with Iran, to discuss efforts to control traffic, including possibly dangerous infiltrators, across the frontier. He said the coalition was making progress with the help of its recent plan to cut the number of legal border crossings from Iran to three from 19.

"We are never going to have 100 percent security on the borders of Iraq. We have to be realistic about that," Bremer told local officials.