BAGHDAD, Iraq, AP – Sunni-led insurgents killed six Iraqi police officers at a checkpoint and fired a mortar round that struck a home outside the capital, killing a child inside, officials said, as Shiites began celebrating a major Muslim holiday.
Also Friday, the U.S. military said it had killed five senior figures of the feared insurgent group al-Qaida in Iraq during an airstrike last Saturday in Husaybah near the Syrian border. The five, including at least one North African, were responsible for bombings against U.S. and Iraqi forces, the announcement said.
Friday”s worst attack by insurgents occurred at an Iraqi police checkpoint in Buhriz, 35 miles north of Baghdad.
The insurgents fired mortar rounds, then arrived in eight cars and opened fire, a police officer said. At least six policemen were killed and 10 wounded in the ensuing gunbattle, and it was not immediately known if any militants were hurt, the officer said, speaking on condition of anonymity out of concern for his own safety.
On the outskirts of Baghdad, near the U.S.-run Abu Ghraib detention center, insurgents fired a mortar round that missed an American base but hit a village home, killing a child and wounding the mother and another one of her children, said police 1st Lt. Ahmed Ali.
Suspected insurgents also shot and killed Tarijk Hasan, a former colonel in the Iraqi air force, as he drove through Baghdad on Thursday, said police Capt. Talib Thamir.
Late Thursday, a U.S. soldier also died near Talil, 170 miles southeast of Baghdad, the military said. The death, apparently of non-hostile causes, brought to at least 2,038 the number of U.S. military service members who have died since the Iraq conflict began in March 2003, according to an Associated Press count.
Friday”s violence came as majority Shiites began the three-day religious holiday of Eid al-Fitr, which ends a month of fasting during the Islamic holy month of Ramadan.
Most of Iraq”s minority Sunni Arabs began to celebrate Eid on Thursday — based on their different interpretation of the lunar calendar. In war-torn cities such as Baghdad, Sunnis marked the holiday by dressing up, taking their children to local amusement parks, and serving lavish meals to friends and relatives at their homes.
Shiites did the same on Friday.
In Sadr City, a large Shiite area of Baghdad, crowds of children lined up at small local amusement parks, but security remained tight, given all the insurgent attacks that occur in the capital, including suicide car bombs, drive-by shootings and roadside bombs.
"We have no reason to celebrate under occupation and terrorism," said Karar al-Aboudi, 25, the owner of clothing stall near one park. "We pray to God that in the next Eid, our country will be stable and free."
In a speech marking Eid in another part of Baghdad, a top Shiite leader urged voters to support his coalition in Iraq”s Dec. 15 parliamentary election.
Abdel-Aziz al-Hakim, head of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution of Iraq, told a crowd gathered at his party headquarters that the aim of his candidates is "to protect all Iraqis, not only Shiites but also minority Sunnis and Kurds."
Two major religious parties — SCIRI and Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari”s Dawa Party — form Iraq”s top Shiite alliance. Both parties have been criticized for their close ties to Iran.
When Iraq elected its current interim parliament on Jan. 30, many Sunnis boycotted the vote, and the Shiite alliance won the biggest share of seats. But many Sunnis are expected to vote in the Dec. 15 ballot for a new parliament, one that will remain in power for four years.
On Thursday, al-Qaida in Iraq issued two claims of responsibility for recent attacks.
It said it shot down a U.S. helicopter that crashed in Ramadi on Wednesday, killing two Marines. The group, led by the Jordanian Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, also said it had sentenced to death two Moroccan Embassy employees who were kidnapped last month in Iraq.
The authenticity of the claims could not be determined.