Roadside bombs kill US soldier, at least 11 Iraqis

BAGHDAD (AP) — A spate of roadside bombings in Baghdad and north of the capital killednews2_19_2.jpg a US soldier and at least 11 Iraqis Saturday, officials said. Two Macedonians were kidnapped in southern Iraq, while a search is on for a private German plane missing in the north.

An Iraqi police major also was killed 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 US military said a roadside bomb struck an American vehicle at about 8:00am 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 US 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 football stadium, and the area was cordoned off by US and Iraqi forces. An American helicopter landed at the scene to take away the victim.

Shortly after, a roadside bomb exploded on an eastern Baghdad highway and killed four Iraqi policemen guarding an oil tanker, Lt. Bilal Ali Majid said. One other policeman was wounded and the tanker was not damaged.

Another concealed bomb detonated at 8:45am as a police patrol passed 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 the downtown Karradah neighbourhood.

Karradah police chief, Brig. Abdul-Karim Maryoush, was unharmed but two policemen were killed and one was wounded, police Maj. Abbas Mohammed said.

A bomb blast in Saddam Hussein’s hometown of Tikrit, 130 kilometres north of Baghdad, that was 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 kilometres 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 US-led coalition troops.

Iraqi police said a US 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 US military had no immediate comment.

Gunmen also killed a minibus driver and his friend at a bus station in western Baghdad’s Amariyah neighbourhood, police said.

Police said they found the bodies of two bound and blindfolded men riddled with bullet holes at southeastern Baghdad’s notorious Rustamiyah sewerage treatment plant, where dozens of bodies have been dumped after being killed in similar fashion. Another man was shot dead execution-style and dumped in northern Baghdad’s Kazimiyah area.

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 $1 million ransom has been demanded for their release, a company employee said on condition of anonymity because he was not authorised to speak to the media.

Maj. Peter Cripps said the two men were abducted while driving with a Macedonian woman who worked for the same company.

“They were in a vehicle travelling 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 who worked for the company, which has a cleaning contract at the British-controlled Basra International Airport.

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 January 7 in Baghdad, and at least 39 have been killed.

The US military released about 430 male Iraqi detainees during the past few days after reviews of their cases found no reason to hold them, a statement said Saturday.

Carroll’s kidnappers are demanding the release of all women detainees as part of a purported ultimatum to release their captive. There was no word if any of the five remaining Iraqi women in custody would be released.

Meanwhile, hundreds of Iraqi security personnel, assisted by US personnel, searched Saturday for a German-owned plane believed to have crashed in northern Iraq’s snow-covered mountains.

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 travelled 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.

German and Iraqi officials did not immediately offer further details about the plane and its passengers.

Iraq’s oil industry suffered $6.25 billion in losses in 2005 as a result of oil infrastructure sabotage and lost export revenues, Oil Ministry Spokesman Assem Jihad said Saturday.

Jihad said there were 186 attacks on Iraqi oil installations last year, in 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 northern oil installations, preventing Iraq from exporting around 400,000 barrels a day.

Iraq currently produces around 2 million barrels per day from its southern and northern oil fields, down by about 800,000 barrels from levels before the 2003 US-led invasion.

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