BAGHDAD, Iraq, AP – Insurgents bombed an Iraqi oil pipeline south of Baghdad, and a car bomb and a shooting in the capital killed two Iraqi policemen and the driver of bus carrying government employees to work on Monday, police said.
New information also emerged about a bomb-making factory hidden in the basement of a religious school near a major Sunni shrine in Baghdad that had exploded on Sunday, killing one insurgent and wounding two, police said.
Meanwhile, Australia, a member of the U.S.-led coalition in Iraq, announced that it will send additional soldiers to southern Iraq to replace forces protecting a Japanese military reconstruction team in the region.
The bombing of the pipeline occurred late Sunday near Mussayab city, about 30 miles south of Baghdad, sending up a large plume of black smoke. The pipeline carries oil from Dora refinery in Baghdad to Mussayab power station, and police Col. Ahmed Mijwal said the attack had closed the station.
In Baghdad, a car bomb exploded near a police patrol on Palestine street in eastern Baghdad on Monday morning, killing two policemen and wounding 12 Iraqis: five policemen and seven civilians, said police Lt. Ahmed Qassim.
In western Baghdad, suspected insurgents stopped a bus carrying Higher Education Ministry employees to work, fatally shooting the driver and wounding a policeman who was working on the bus as a guard, said police Capt. Jamil Hussein.
Insurgents often try to prevent Iraqi citizens from cooperating with their country’s new democratically elected government and its defense forces by attacking government workers and killing men who have been recruited to Iraq’s military and police forces.
On Sunday the U.S. military reported that one suspected insurgent was killed and one wounded that day when their bomb-making factory exploded in the basement of one of Baghdad’s two more important Sunni Arab shrines.
But the U.S. command and Iraqi forces said Monday that their investigation found one insurgent died and two were wounded in the basement of the partially built al-Qadiriya religious school next door to the shrine when the roadside bombs they were making exploded.
Years ago, Saddam Hussein’s government began building the school near Abdel-Qadir al-Qeilani, a famous Sunni shrine that is visited by thousands of Sunni Muslims from around the region, but the school was left unfinished after the invasion.
Australia’s government announced Monday that it will send a fresh team of troops to southern Iraq to replace forces protecting a Japanese military reconstruction team in the region. Defense Minister Brendan Nelson said 470 Australian troops would be sent to the al-Muthana province when the current Australian task force ends its six-month tour of duty in coming weeks.
It remains unclear when the Japanese forces will leave Iraq, but if they leave before the fresh Australian troops’ tour is completed, Australia likely will deploy them elsewhere in Iraq. Speculation has been strong that Japan may start withdrawing its soldiers this spring.
Monday’s violence in Iraq came at a time of rising attacks by insurgents and sectarian violence involving Sunnis and Shiites.
On Sunday, car bombs killed at least 16 people and wounded dozens in Baghdad and the Shiite holy city of Karbala, casting doubt on U.S. hopes that the formation of a new government alone would provide a quick end to the country’s violence.
At least 26 others were killed or found dead that day, including a U.S. Marine wounded in the insurgent bastion of Anbar province in western Iraq, police and the U.S. military said.
Some of the victims appeared to have been abducted and killed by sectarian “death squads” that target members of the rival religious communities.
The framework of Iraq’s new unity government was put in place last month with the selection of a president, vice presidents, prime minister and parliament speaker. Incoming Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, a Shiite, hopes to present his Cabinet to parliament by Wednesday.
However, a top Shiite official, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the deliberations, said al-Maliki would probably not meet that target because of differences among the parties over who will run the ministries of interior and defense. Those posts control the police and army, and coalition officials have insisted that the new ministers have no ties to militias believed responsible for kidnappings and killings of civilians.