BAGHDAD, Iraq, AP – Gunmen ambushed a convoy of trucks carrying construction material Sunday to U.S. military north of Baghdad, killing four Iraqi drivers, police said. An police general died in a roadside bombing in northern Iraq.
The ambush occurred near Nibaie, about 35 miles north of the capital, police Lt. Khalid al-Obaidi said. The area has been the scene of several ambushes and roadside bombings in the last few days.
Also Sunday, police found bodies of three men — bound, blindfolded and shot execution-style — in Baghdad’s Shiite stronghold of Sadr City. They appeared to be the latest victims of sectarian tit-for-tat killings, which have sharpened religious tensions as Iraqi politicians try to form a national unity government following the December parliamentary elections.
The Interior Ministry has announced an investigation into allegations of Shiite death squads in police ranks after U.S. troops arrested 22 policemen preparing to kill a Sunni Arab last month.
Elsewhere, police Brig. Gen. Hatim Khalaf and his driver were killed when a roadside bomb exploded 20 miles southwest of Kirkuk, police said. Khalaf was the chief of the operations center for the police in Kirkuk, headquarters of Iraq’s northern oil-producing center.
Two policemen were injured in a roadside bombing Sunday in Fallujah, the former insurgent headquarters 40 miles west of Baghdad. Fallujah has seen several deadly attacks in the past two weeks even though it became one of the most tightly controlled cities in Iraq after falling to a U.S. assault in November 2004.
Sunday’s violence came a day after 20 people were killed in Iraq in bombings and shootings. The dead included an American soldier killed in a roadside bombing in eastern Baghdad. His death brought the number of U.S. personnel killed to at least 2,273 since the Iraq war began in March 2003, according to an Associated Press count.
More than 1,000 students at Diyala University marched through the streets of Baqouba to the governor’s office Sunday to protest the caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad, which first appeared in a Danish newspaper in September and have been reprinted in several European dailies. The students were also protesting a recent video showing British forces beating Iraqi youths during a January 2004 protest in Amarah.
Signs read “We sacrifice our souls and blood for Islam” and other religious slogans.
Also Sunday, Australia said it would probably not withdraw its troops protecting Japanese reconstruction teams in Iraq even if the Japanese leave.
Defense Minister Brendan Nelson said Australian forces could redeploy elsewhere in Iraq if the that if the Japanese humanitarian teams left after May.
Australia has about 1,320 troops in Iraq and the Middle East, including about 460 soldiers guarding the Japanese in the southern province of Muthanna.