Iraq Bloodshed Widespread

US army soldiers secure the area after a bus was hit by a roadside bomb in Haswa, 50 kilometers (30 miles) south of Baghdad, Iraq, Saturday, April 24, 2004. At least 13 Iraqis were killed, including one child, and wounding 17 people, a hospital official said. AP

Three boats exploded near two Iraqi oil terminals in the Persian Gulf on Saturday, killing two U.S. service members in what appeared to be coordinated suicide attacks, the U.S. military said.

Insurgents struck a U.S. military base north of Baghdad with rockets at dawn Saturday, killing five American soldiers, an official said. Also, a Marine died of wounds sustained ten days ago.

A roadside bomb exploded Saturday near a bus in Haswa, 30 miles south of Baghdad, killing 13 Iraqis, including at least one child, and wounding 17 people, a hospital official said.

Volleys of rockets struck the capital's crowded Shiite Muslim neighborhood of Sadr City on Saturday, hitting a busy market, smashing into a home and killing at least seven Iraqis.

Aside from the Haswa and Sadr City deaths, at least 13 Iraqis were reported killed in a bombing at Tikrit, clashes between Polish troops and Shiite militiamen in Karbala, and U.S. raids overnight in Sadr City.

CBS News Correspondent Allen Pizzey in Baghdad says Saturday's violence "makes a (U.S.) handover to Iraqi control in nine weeks time look more problematic than ever."

In other developments:

  • President Bush and his senior national security and military advisers are expected to decide this weekend whether to order an invasion of Falluja, even if a battle there runs the risk of uprisings in the city and perhaps elsewhere around Iraq, The New York Times reports in a story prepared for its Sunday editions.

    On Friday, U.S. commanders repeated blunt warnings that the Marine assault on Fallujah could resume, meaning a revival of heavy fighting that has killed hundreds of Iraqis in the city. Marines say guerrillas in the city have not been sincerely abiding by a call to surrender heavy weapons in their arsenals.

  • In South Korea, hundreds of demonstrators rallied on Saturday to protest the government's plan to send 3,000 troops to Iraq to help U.S.-led coalition forces rebuild the war-torn nation.

  • Police arrested five Iraqis on Friday believed linked to al Qaeda and suspected in this week's suicide bombings in Basra that killed 74 people, and the men led police to a stash of 20 tons of explosives, the city's police intelligence chief said.

    Saturday's deaths brought to 109 the number of U.S. troops killed in Iraq since the beginning of April. Since the U.S.-led invasion last year, 715 American military personnel have died in Iraq.

    The oil-related explosions, which caused no damage to the terminals, were the first known maritime attacks on Iraqi oil facilities since the March 2003 U.S.-led invasion. Insurgents have attacked pipelines in the north and south, at times disrupting Iraq's vital oil exports.

    The two Americans were killed when they tried to intercept a small boat sighted near the Khawr al-Amaya oil terminal in the north of the Gulf, the Bahrain-based 5th Fleet said.

    As the eight-member boarding team approached the boat, it exploded, flipping the team's craft and throwing the crew into the water. Four coalition personnel were wounded.

    Soon afterward, two more boats were seen approaching the al-Basra terminal. Security forces from the terminals went to intercept the boats, which then exploded, the statement said.

    Initial reports indicated no damage to either terminal, it said. British military spokesman Capt. Hisham Halawi said earlier that the second two boats exploded near two oil tankers at the al-Basra terminal, also known as ABOT.
    U.S., Australian and British forces patrol the Gulf off Iraq.

    Halawi said it was not immediately known if the attackers intended to be suicide bombers.

    The attacks resembled an Oct. 12, 2000 attack on USS Cole off Yemen, in which an explosives-laden boat rammed the destroyer, killing 17 American sailors. On Oct. 6, 2002, a boat rammed a French oil tanker off the coast of Yemen and exploded, killing one crewman.

    Both those attacks were blamed on Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda terror network.

    The five American soldiers were killed around dawn when two rockets fired from a truck hit the U.S. base at Taji, 12 miles north of Baghdad, Air Force Lt. Col. Sam Hudspath said. U.S. helicopter gunships then destroyed the truck, the military said. Six soldiers were wounded in the attack, three of them critically, the military said. Taji is a former Iraqi air force base that is now used by the Army's Texas-based 1st Cavalry Division.

    The Marine who died was wounded April 14 while fighting guerrillas in Iraq's western Anbar province, which includes Fallujah, the military said Saturday.

    The Haswa blast Saturday occurred on a main road. The bomb was planted in the ground and went off as a bus carrying 21 people was passing, said police officer Ali Mahmoud.

    U.S. helicopters were seen taking American casualties away, the witnesses said. There was no immediate comment from the military.

    The pre-dawn fighting in Sadr City, a slum of more than 1 million people in eastern Baghdad, came when U.S. troops sought to capture suspected Shiite militiamen, sparking a battle that the military said killed one or two Iraqis.

    Hours later, a volley of three rockets was fired into the section. One hit the neighborhood's crowded souk, known as Chicken Market, where hundreds had gathered for morning shopping. At least six Iraqis were killed and 38 wounded, said Yassin Abdel-Qader, a doctor with the area's Health Directorate.

    A few hours later, a rocket struck a two-story house in Sadr City, smashing through the roof and down to the ground floor, killing a woman as she took an afternoon nap and wounding her daughter. At least two more rockets exploded later on a main street on the edge of Sadr City, breaking windows but causing no casualties.

    It was not immediately known who was behind the rocket assault on the predominantly Shiite district, but after the rocket strike, residents chanted: "Long live al-Sadr! America and the Governing Council are infidels!"

    In other violence Saturday:

    --Polish troops clashed overnight with Shiite militiamen in the city of Karbala, killing five, a spokesman for the multinational peacekeeping force in south-central Iraq said. A day earlier, an attack on Bulgarian troops in the city killed one soldier.

    --A roadside bomb destroyed a car carrying Iraqis near a U.S. base on a downtown street in the northern city of Tikrit, the hometown of Saddam and a center for anti-U.S. resistance. Four Iraqis - two policemen and two civilians - were killed and 16 people were wounded, the U.S. military said. The top U.S. administrator in Iraq, L. Paul Bremer, visited Tikrit a day earlier for meetings with tribal leaders.

    --An Iraqi woman working as a translator for the U.S. military and her husband were fatally shot as they drove to a U.S. base, a hospital official said.

    --Gunmen attacked a U.S. convoy near the city of Kut, and an armored vehicle was reported burned. Witnesses also said they saw American casualties.

    --A roadside bomb exploded as a U.S. military convoy passed in the restive town of Baqouba, northeast of Baghdad, injuring a 4-year-old Iraqi girl, said Dr. Hussein Ali Hadi from city's main hospital. On Friday, a roadside bomb there blasted an Iraqi police patrol, wounding three officers, witnesses said.
    On Friday, the United Nations' envoy said the 25 members of Iraq's U.S.-picked Governing Council should be excluded from a planned caretaker government that is supposed to take nominal sovereignty from the U.S.-led occupation on June 30.

    While a group of "technocrats" runs the interim government, the council members should spend the next nine months campaigning for elections due by the end of January, said the envoy, Lakhdar Brahimi.

    Washington has backed Brahimi's proposal.

    The Washington Post reports in its Saturday editions that, "At the top of the list of those likely to be jettisoned is Ahmed Chalabi, a Shiite politician who for years was a favorite of the Pentagon and the office of Vice President Cheney, and who was once expected to assume a powerful role after the ouster of Saddam Hussein."
    • Joel Roberts

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