BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) – Gunmen killed at least six Iraqi security personnel and two engineers from Malawi and Madagascar went missing following an attack Wednesday on a mobile phone firm’s convoy in western Baghdad, the company said.
Iraqna, a cell phone company owned by Egyptian-giant Orascom, said in a statement that their convoy was attacked at about 8 a.m. in the capital’s Nafaq al-Shurta area and that the fate of the missing engineers was unknown.
There was confusion about the number of dead. Police Capt. Qassim Hussein said at least 10 security personnel were killed in the attack, and hospital officials put the death toll at nine. It was not immediately possible to reconcile the differences, and it was unclear if some of the dead were assailants.
An Iraqna engineer, Ali Jamil, told The Associated Press that the two engineers were abducted as they were heading to a project in Baghdad.
Iraqi and U.S. authorities are desperately searching for another missing person, 28-year-old American reporter Jill Carroll, who was seen in a tape aired on an Arab TV station late Tuesday for the first time since her Jan. 7 abduction in Baghdad.
The silent 20-second video that appeared on Al-Jazeera TV showed Carroll appearing pale and tired. The station said it also included a threat to kill the freelance writer for the Christian Science Monitor in 72 hours if U.S. authorities didn’t release all Iraqi women in military custody.
U.S. military spokeswoman Sgt. Stacy Simon said eight Iraqi women are currently detained, but provided no further details.
Carroll was abducted in one of Baghdad’s most dangerous neighborhoods while being driven to meet a Sunni Arab politician, who failed to appear for the interview. Carroll’s translator was killed.
“Efforts are continuing to find the American journalist,” said Gen. Hussein Kamal, the deputy interior minister in charge of domestic intelligence. “We cannot say more because of the sensitivity of the matter, but God willing the end will be positive.”
A still photograph of Carroll from the videotape on Al-Jazeera’s Web site carried a logo reading “The Revenge Brigade,” a group that was not known from previous claims of responsibility of violence in Iraq.
The Christian Science Monitor said Carroll arrived in Iraq in 2003 and began filing stories for the newspaper early last year. The paper released a statement from her family pleading with her captors to set her free.
The steady regime of bloodshed continued across the country, including a suicide bomb attack targeting a police patrol near the southern Baghdad home of prominent Shiite politician Abdul Aziz al-Hakim. Two policemen were killed and five wounded, according to Col. Salman Abdul-Karim.
Police found the bodies of 11 men shot dead and wearing civilian clothes with Iraqi army and police commando identity cards on a farm in Dujail, 80 kilometers (50 miles) miles north of Baghdad, said police Capt. Ali al Hashmawi.
Another five men, all wearing civilian clothes with fatal bullet wounds to their heads, were found floating in the Qaid river near Swera, about 40 kilometers (25 miles) south of Baghdad, said Kut Hospital morgue employee Hadi al-Itabi.
Three more Iraqi policemen and an Iraqi civilian were killed when a roadside bomb blast targeted another police patrol in Saadiya, a town about 130 kilometers (80 miles) north of the Iraqi capital, according to a spokeswoman who declined to identify herself further due to security concerns. Another four police were wounded.
The bodies of three men, including a prominent Sunni Arab leader related to Iraq’s defense minister, were found with gunshot wounds to the head in a Baghdad apartment, said a police official who declined to be identified further because of security reasons.
A U.S. soldier based in Baghdad also died of non-combat-related wounds Tuesday, the military announced Wednesday. At least 2,221 members of the U.S. military have died since the beginning of the Iraq war in March 2003, according to an Associated Press count.
About 1,000 U.S. troops backed by Iraqi soldiers launched a counterinsurgency operation Sunday in the western Iraqi province of Anbar, the military said in a statement. Operation Wadi Aljundi is targeting insurgents and their weapons caches in the Western Euphrates River Valley between the Jubbah and Baghdadi regions and the city of Hit, 140 kilometers (85 miles) west of Baghdad.
U.S. forces have launched multiple operations in the vast Anbar province, seen as a hotbed for homegrown insurgents and an entry point for militants crossing from bordering Syria.
Iraqi doctors are also investigating if a 15-year-old girl who recently died from a lung infection was infected with bird flu, a Health Ministry official said. The girl’s family apparently kept chickens in their house in the northeast Iraqi city of Sulaimaniyah, and some of those birds also died, said Dr. Abdul Jalil Naji. He said the girl died in the last few days, but did not have an exact date.
“There are suspicions that they died of bird flu, but it is not certain yet and is not proven by laboratory checks,” said Naji, who leads the bird flu office of Iraq’s Health Ministry.