BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) – A U.S. soldier and at least eight Iraqis were killed in Baghdad and north of the Iraqi capital Saturday in a spate of roadside bombings, officials said. Two Macedonians have been kidnapped in southern Iraq, while a search is on for a private German plane missing in the north.
An Iraqi police major was also assassinated by drive-by gunmen in the insurgent stronghold of Ramadi, west of Baghdad, in the latest attack targeting security forces that the United States hopes will eventually take control of Iraq.
The U.S. military said a roadside bomb struck an American vehicle at about 8 a.m. in eastern Baghdad, killing a soldier assigned to the Multi-National Division-Baghdad.
The death, the first reported by the command since Tuesday, took the number of U.S. personnel killed in Iraq to at least 2,273 since the Iraq war began in March 2003, according to an Associated Press count.
The attack happened near the Shaab soccer stadium, and the area was cordoned off by U.S. and Iraqi forces. An American helicopter landed at the scene to take the victim away. Shortly after, a roadside bomb exploded on an eastern Baghdad highway and killed two Iraqi policemen guarding an oil tanker, Lt. Bilal Ali Majid said. Three other police were wounded and the tanker was not damaged.
Another concealed bomb detonated at 8:45 a.m. as a police patrol passed by in eastern Baghdad’s Ghadir area, missing the policemen but killing three Iraqi civilians and wounding four driving in two cars, Lt. Ali Abbas said.
A top Baghdad police official escaped a roadside bomb that targeted his convoy in Baghdad’s Karradah neighborhood. Karradah police chief, Brig. Abdul-Karim Maryoush, was unharmed but a policeman was killed and two were wounded, police Maj. Abbas Mohammed said.
A bomb blast in Saddam Hussein’s hometown of Tikrit, 130 kilometers (80 miles) north of Baghdad, meant for policemen hit a bus instead, killing one passenger and wounding two others, police said.
One more bystander was killed and five wounded when a bomb planted on a road exploded in Baqouba, 60 kilometers (35 miles) northeast of Baghdad, police said. The motive for the attack was unclear.
Scores of Iraqis have been killed and wounded by bomb blasts that miss intended targets, such as Iraqi security forces and U.S.-led coalition troops. Iraqi police said a U.S. patrol killed three men trying to plant roadside bombs in Baghdad’s troubled southern suburb of Dora.
One man was shot dead while trying to place a bomb on the side of a road, while two accomplices died when soldiers fired at their car, which contained more bombs that exploded, said Lt. Maitham Abdul-Razzaq. The U.S. military had no immediate comment.
The British military confirmed that two foreigners abducted in the southern city of Basra Thursday morning are Macedonians working for the Ecolog cleaning company. A US$1 million (¤840,000) ransom has been demanded for their release, a company employee said on condition of anonymity as he was unauthorized to speak to the media.
Maj. Peter Cripps said the two men were abducted while driving with Macedonian woman who worked for the same company called Ecolog. “They were in a vehicle traveling between two locations and during that route they were somehow abducted,” Cripps told The Associated Press.
The kidnappers took the two men and left the woman on the side of the road, where she was picked up by a British patrol, Cripps said. Police are investigating the case. The company employee identified the hostages as Macedonian Muslims of Albanian ethnic origin and worked for the company that has a cleaning contract at the British-controlled Basra International Airport. The Macedonian company’s headquarters in neighboring Kuwait. Macedonian officials were not immediately available for comment.
More than 250 foreigners have been kidnapped in Iraq, including American reporter Jill Carroll who was abducted Jan. 7 in Baghdad, and at least 39 have been killed. Meanwhile, hundreds of Iraqi security personnel, assisted by U.S. personnel, searched Saturday for a German-owned plane feared crashed in northern Iraq’s snow-covered mountain region.
German officials were informed Thursday that the plane, carrying five Germans and one Iraqi, had gone missing en route to the northern Iraqi city of Kirkuk from Azerbaijan’s capital, Baku.
The plane started its journey in Munich Tuesday and traveled via Hungary to Baku. Police spokesman Hans-Dieter Kammerer said the plan was for it to continue to Sulaimaniyah or Kirkuk in northern Iraq on Thursday. Compounding Iraq’s violence has been the insurgency’s devastating impact on the country’s economy, particularly its oil industry, which suffered US$6.25 billion (¤5.25 billion) in losses in 2005 as a result of sabotage to oil infrastructure and lost export revenues, Oil Ministry spokesman Assem Jihad said Saturday.
Jihad also said there were 186 attacks on Iraqi oil installations last year, during which insurgents killed 47 oil engineers, technicians and workers and about 100 police protecting pipelines and other oil-related facilities. Most of the sabotage took place in the northern oil installations, preventing Iraq from exporting around 400,000 barrels a day from its northern oil fields via the Turkish port of Ceyhan. Iraq currently produces around 2 million barrels per day from its southern and northern oil fields, down by about 800,000 barrels compared to levels before the 2003 U.S.-led invasion. Since Saddam’s fall, insurgents have routinely attacked oil infrastructure in a bid to derail American-backed reconstruction efforts.