Gunmen Attack Iraqi Security Personnel

Iraqi police inspect the wreckage of a suicide bomb near the home of a prominent Shiite political leader, Wednesday, Jan. 18, 2006, in Baghdad, Iraq. A suicide car bomb attack, targeting a police patrol near the southern Baghdad home of prominent Shiite politician Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, left two policemen dead and five wounded. AP

Gunmen killed 11 Iraqi security personnel in an ambush Wednesday in Baghdad's deadly western suburbs, a police official said. 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.

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, 50 miles north of Baghdad, said police Capt. Ali al Hashmawi.

In other developments:

  • An Arab television channel aired a silent 20-second videotape Tuesday night of hostage American reporter Jill Carroll and said an accompanying message gave the U.S. 72 hours to free female prisoners in Iraq or the journalist would be killed. A producer for al-Jazeera said the tape was received on Tuesday. The tape showed Carroll sitting in front of a white background and speaking, but her voice could not be heard.

  • The sister of Iraq's interior minister was freed by kidnappers about two weeks after she was seized in Baghdad, an official said Wednesday. The woman was abducted Jan. 3 in an attack in which one of her bodyguards was killed and another seriously injured. Ali al-Khaqani, secretary of Interior Minister Bayan Jabr, said the official's sister was released and was at her home but refused to give more details.

  • A U.S. soldier based in Baghdad 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.

  • Iraqi doctors are 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.

  • 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, 85 miles west of Baghdad.

  • The chief judge who resigned from handling the Saddam Hussein trial amid claims of government interference is expected to be replaced by his deputy, the top Iraqi investigator in the case said Tuesday. The tribunal said Amin wanted to quit for "personal reasons" and not because of government pressure.

    Another five men, all wearing civilian clothes with fatal bullet wounds to their heads, were found floating in the Qaid river near Swera, about 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 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.

    • Joel Roberts

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