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Army Tries To Quell Violence In Balad

U.S. forces were back patrolling the streets of the predominantly Shiite town of Balad on Tuesday after a shocking five days of sectarian violence in which nearly 100 died. American and Iraqi officials said the bloodletting in Balad had eased, although some violence continued.

For example, unidentified gunmen in police uniforms hijacked 13 civilian cars with their occupants at Sayed Gharib checkpoint about four miles outside Balad on Monday night, an officer at the Salahuddin provincial police headquarters said.

The officer said the incident took place after police had left the checkpoint for the evening. He said he had been told those abducted had been taken to nearby area, but there was no further word on their fate. The officer spoke only on condition of anonymity because he wasn't authorized to talk to media.

The head of Iraq's security commission angrily accused the government of failing to resolve the crisis. Residents also blamed American forces — there is a base located right next door to Balad — for failing to intervene. But U.S. officials said they couldn't act until asked by Iraqi officials, reports CBS News chief foreign correspondent Lara Logan.

As the violence had raged over the weekend, the American military initially said it had not been asked for help. By Monday, the military indicated some involvement but issued only a vague statement. The final and more definitive but still imprecise description of U.S. involvement was issued by Tuesday.

"By coordinating all of our efforts, we have seen a marked decrease in violence in the past 24 hours," said Lt. Col. Jeffery Martindale, commander of 1st Battalion, 8th Infantry Regiment, 4th Infantry Division. U.S. forces were also firing back at insurgents launching mortar attacks on civilians in the area, he said.

Iraqi deaths are running at a high rate. According to an Associated Press count, 708 Iraqis have been reported killed in war-related violence this month, or just more than 44 per day, compared to a daily average of more than 27 since the AP began tracking deaths in April 2005.

In other developments:

  • Iraq's Shiite-dominated Interior Ministry said Tuesday it had stripped two officers of their duties directing commando units, calling the move part of a restructuring plan for the national police force. Ministry spokesman Brig. Abdul-Karim Khalaf said the two officers — Maj. Gen. Rashid Filah and Maj. Gen. Mahdi Sabbih — were transferred from their posts, but he gave no concrete indication of any plans for the men.
  • Saddam Hussein accused prosecution witnesses in his genocide trial Tuesday of sowing division for the benefit of Israel after they testified that his regime's forces detained Kurds in camps where hundreds died of malnutrition. The chief prosecutor said Saddam ran a police state that kept no records of detainees and camps — a charge the deposed leader denied.
  • U.S. troops uncovered two weapons caches and detained seven suspected terrorists in and around Baghdad on Sunday and Monday, the military said. Troops seized weapons, bomb making materials and artillery rounds and rockets to be turned into roadside bombs.
  • Across Iraq, bombings and shootings killed at least 33 people. Ten people were killed in a spate of shootings in the southern, predominantly Shiite city of Basra, 340 miles southeast of Baghdad.
  • Unidentified gunmen in both police and civilian vehicles gunned down victims including four students outside the city's university and a well-known doctor who was leaving her house for work, said a Basra police captain speaking on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisals.
  • In Karmah, 50 miles west of Baghdad, a roadside bomb killed five Iraqi soldiers as their convoy passed through the town at 7 a.m., police Lt. Ahmed Ali said.
  • Gunmen stormed into the house of a Shiite family in Balad Ruz, 45 miles northeast of Baghdad, at 3 a.m., killing the mother and four adult sons and injuring the father, provincial police official Khalil Yacoub said.
  • Two policemen in a patrol car were killed at 11 a.m. by gunmen in a passing car in the center of the western city of Falluja, a former insurgent, police Lt. Husam Mohammed said.

  • In the northern city of Mosul, gunmen killed a member of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, one of two main Kurdish political parties, police Brig. Saed Ahmed said. Gunmen approached by car and fired at Fatah Hurki at 8:30 a.m. as he stood in front of his home in the al-Shurta section of Mosul, 225 miles northwest of Baghdad, Ahmed said.
  • Also in the heavily Kurdish north, two suicide car bombers blew themselves up in a botched attack at about 5 a.m. near the police academy in Kirkuk, police Brig. Sarhat Qadir said. There were no reports of other casualties in the attack. A suicide bomber attacked a Kurdish girls' high school in Kirkuk on Sunday as part of a string of attacks that killed at least 10 people in the ethnically mixed city.
  • Three guards attached to the head of the city council in Samarra were shot dead by unknown gunmen while refueling at gas station in the city, 60 miles north of Baghdad, police Capt. Laith Mohammed said. A mortar round that landed near the city's public hospital killed a 12-year-old boy and injured five others, said Mohammed said.
  • Unidentified gunmen attacked a facility belonging to the central Euphrates electricity distribution authority in the town of Hillah, about 60 miles south of Baghdad, killing a technician and wounding five guards.
  • Elsewhere in Hillah, gunmen raided a house of a local vehicle merchant at 7 a.m. and kidnapped one of his sons, police Capt. Mothana Khalid Ali said.
  • In Baghdad, two people, including a policeman, were killed and four wounded in a mortar attack on the downtown Ilwiyah neighborhood, police Lt. Bilal Ali Majid said.
  • Twenty people were injured when two Katyusha rockets landed on Baghdad's violence-torn Dora neighborhood, police Capt. Firas Geiti said. One policeman was killed and three injured in a car bombing in the neighborhood, police Lt. Maitham Abdul-Razaq said.
  • The blindfolded and bound bodies of 12 unidentified men were found dumped in eastern Baghdad, police official Ahmed Mohamed said. Four more were found in the cities western districts, according to Lt. Abdul-Razaq. All had been shot in the head and their bodies showed signs of torture — a calling card of roving sectarian death squads blamed for nightly killings and abductions.
  • There were no new reports Tuesday of U.S. casualties in Iraq. Seven American troops died in fighting Sunday, raising the U.S. toll to 58 killed in the first two weeks of October, a pace that if continued would make the month the worst for coalition forces since January 2005.

    Martindale also said U.S. troops detained a pair of Iraqi police officers in the neighboring Sunni town of Duluiyah. The men were suspected of being involved in the slaying of 17 Shiite Muslim workers last week that sparked a wave of revenge killings by Shiite militiamen, Martindale said.

    That announcement reflects claims that local security forces have aided both sides in the sectarian fighting. Sunnis fleeing Balad, some by boat across the Tigris River to Duluiyah said Shiite police in the city had teamed up with death squads who killed at least 74 Sunnis.

    Hadi al-Amiri, the head of the Iraqi parliament's security committee, said Balad was being blockaded to prevent more fighters from entering.

    "There are still painful incidents in there," said al-Amiri, a key member of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution, Iraq's main Shiite religious party.

    Balad police commander Brig. Nebil Al-Beldawi said about 40 mortar rounds had landed on the city overnight, killing four people and wounding 13. Two fuel trucks were set on fire on the city's outskirts, while militants dressed in black uniforms were blocking the fuel and food deliveries into Duluiyah.

    The U.S. Army's 25th Infantry Division handed over responsibility for security in Balad and surrounding Salahuddin province to Iraq's 4th Army Division last month — possibly explaining what appeared to be a delayed response to the fighting despite the presence next door of sprawling Camp Anadonda.

    The handover helped facilitate a redeployment of U.S. forces to Baghdad to boost security in the capital, where deadly bombings and shootings continue to be a daily occurrence.

    The two-month-old Baghdad crackdown, codenamed Operation Together Forward, has cleared more than 95,000 buildings and mosques, resulting in the detention of 214 terrorist suspects and seizure of 1,700 weapons, the military said. More than 7,443,856 cubic feet of trash has also been cleared from Baghdad streets over that period, it said.

    Still, fighting outside the capital remains heavy: U.S. troops killed three suspected insurgents in fighting on Monday in Ramadi, deep in the Sunni heartland west of Baghdad, the military said.

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