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Car bombs target U.S and Iraqi forces in scattered areas of Baghdad - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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BAGHDAD(AP)- A series of car bombs targeted American and Iraqi troops in separate areas of the Iraqi capital, a day after security forces captured a would-be suicide bomber near the entrance to the heavily guarded Green Zone. Scattered mortar fire shook two north Baghdad districts.

Two Iraqi soldiers were killed and six were injured when suicide car bomb exploded near an Iraqi patrol in Andalus Square in central Baghdad, Col. Salman Abdul Karim said.

Car bombs also exploded near a U.S. convoy in the Rustamiyah area of southeastern Baghdad, witnesses said, and near an Iraqi patrol in the north of the city. Police said there were casualties in the north Baghdad attack but there was no comment from U.S. authorities on the Rustamiyah blast.

Earlier Friday, mortar shells exploded near the headquarters of an Iraqi commando battalion in the Sunni neighborhood of Azamiyah of north Baghdad, police said.

Three mortars also fell across the Tigris River in the Shiite district Kazimiyah, police added. No casualties nor damage were reported in any of the blasts.

The blasts occurred on the Muslim day of prayer, ordinarily a relatively quiet period in the capital. There were no claims of responsibility for the attacks. Al-Qaeda claimed responsibility for a largely unsuccessful suicide attack on Thursday near the Green Zone entrance. The area is home to the U.S. Embassy and major Iraqi government offices.

The attack was intended to be part of coordinated assaults by a suicide car bomber and two pedestrians strapped with explosives. The attackers apparently planned to detonate the car bomb first. Then the two pedestrians would blow themselves up in the midst of troops, police and rescue workers rushing to the scene, U.S. officials said. The car bomb exploded successfully. But one pedestrian bomber was killed after an Iraqi policeman shot him, setting off his explosive vest, a U.S. statement said.

The second pedestrian bomber was wounded by shrapnel from the blast before he could detonate his own vest, and was in critical condition at a U.S. military hospital in the Green Zone, the statement said.

Five policemen and four civilians also were wounded by the blasts and gunfire, officials at Yarmouk Hospital said.

Would-be bombers are rarely captured in Iraq. A 19-year-old Saudi was taken into custody after he somehow survived the explosion of his fuel tanker in December, a blast that killed nine people. A Yemeni was arrested in 2003 when his car bomb failed to detonate at a Baghdad police station.

There was no word on the identity of the failed bomber, but his arrest could yield valuable intelligence on the shadowy network of Islamic extremists, many of them believed to be foreigners linked to al-Qaeda.

Also Friday, the U.S. command said American and Iraqi forces raided suspected &#34terrorist safe houses&#34 in the Ghazaliyah and the Abu Ghraib districts on Thursday. The areas are two of the most dangerous in the city.

Eight suspects were taken into custody, a U.S. statement said Friday, and soldiers found an Iraqi general”s uniform in one location.

The raids occurred as U.S. and Iraqi troops appeared to be accelerating the search for insurgents, including those linked to Jordanian-born terror mastermind Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, head of al-Qaeda”s branch in Iraq.

About 30 suspected al-Qaeda members were arrested in the past week, the U.S. command said Thursday. They included Khamis Abdul-Fahdawi, known as Abu Seba, who was captured on Saturday after operations in the Ramadi area west of Baghdad.

A U.S. statement said Abu Seba was a suspect in the &#34attacks against diplomats of Bahrain, Pakistan and the recent murder of Egyptian envoy, Ihab al-Sherif, who was abducted in western Baghdad on July 2.

Al-Qaeda claimed in an Internet posting July 7 that it had killed al-Sherif to punish Egypt for supporting the U.S.-backed Iraqi government.

Another top suspect, Abdullah Ibrahim al-Shadad, or Abu Abdul-Aziz, was arrested during a raid Sunday in Baghdad, the U.S. statement said. It identified him as the operations officer for al-Qaeda in Iraq.

In an Internet statement Thursday, al-Qaeda acknowledged that Abu Abdul Aziz had been apprehended but played down his importance.

In other violence late Thursday, gunmen killed an Iraqi soldier in Baghdad and another outside the Taji air base north of the capital, police said.

Elsewhere, police said gunmen killed five Iraqi employees of an American base in Baqouba, 55 kilometers (35 miles) northeast of Baghdad, as they were driving outside the base. At least nine other policemen also were killed in separate attacks nationwide.

However, figures obtained on Thursday by The Associated Press from Iraqi government ministries show violent deaths among Iraqi civilians far exceeded those of soldiers or police during the first six months of this year.

Between Jan. 1 and June 30, 1,594 civilians were killed, according to the Ministry of Health. By contrast, 895 security forces, 275 Iraqi soldiers and 620 police, were killed in bombings, assassinations or armed clashes with insurgents, according to figures from the interior and defense ministries.

The number of insurgents killed during the six-month period was 781, the government said.

According to an AP count, more than 1,700 people have been killed in violence since April 28, when Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari announced his Shiite-led government.

Asharq Al-Awsat

Asharq Al-Awsat

Asharq Al-Awsat is the world’s premier pan-Arab daily newspaper, printed simultaneously each day on four continents in 14 cities. Launched in London in 1978, Asharq Al-Awsat has established itself as the decisive publication on pan-Arab and international affairs, offering its readers in-depth analysis and exclusive editorials, as well as the most comprehensive coverage of the entire Arab world.

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