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Baghdad Mosque, Police Attacked

Insurgents launched two major attacks Friday against a Shiite mosque and a police station in Baghdad, killing 30 people, including at least 16 police officers, the deadliest insurgent attacks in weeks.

In the north, U.S. and Iraqi troops battled insurgents in Mosul, leaving at least 11 guerrillas and a policeman dead, Iraqi commanders said. The fighting in Iraq's third-largest city — a center of violence since a major uprising last month — came a day after a U.S. soldier was killed in the city.

Also Friday, a U.S. soldier was killed and two were wounded in a roadside bomb attack on their patrol near the northern Iraqi city of Kirkuk, the U.S. military said. No other details were available.

Jordanian terrorist Abu Musab al-Zarqawi's Sunni rebel group, al Qaeda in Iraq, claimed responsibility for the attack on the police station in Baghdad's western Amil district. The claim, which appeared on an Islamic Web site, could not immediately be verified.

"The destructive effect that such operations has on the morale of the enemy inside and on its countries and people abroad is clear," the claim said.

U.S. forces believe Zarqawi's followers have fled to Baghdad, and north to Mosul after the recent offensive in Fallujah drove them out, CBS News correspondent Kimberly Dozier reports.

In the attack, gunmen first shelled the police station near the dangerous road to Baghdad International Airport. Then guerrillas stormed the station, killing 16 policemen, looting weapons, releasing detainees and torching several cars, Police Capt. Mohammed al-Jumeili said. He said several policemen and detainees at the station were wounded.

U.S. military spokesman Lt. Col. Jim Hutton said gunmen in 11 cars attacked the station with rocket-propelled grenades and small arms fire. He said a U.S. military Humvee was also damaged. There were no American casualties. There was no word on the insurgents' casualties.

In other developments:

  • German authorities arrested three Iraqis with alleged al Qaeda links on suspicion they were planning an attack on Iraqi Prime Minister Ayad Allawi while he visited Germany on Friday, the country's chief prosecutor said. The arrests were announced while Allawi was in Berlin and hours before he met German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder.
  • NATO's supreme allied commander in Europe, U.S. Marine Gen. James Jones, expressed surprise at the slow pace of restoring security during a visit to Baghdad on Friday, saying he had believed Iraq's insurgency would have been brought under control faster than Afghanistan's.
  • Two city councilmen from Khalis were ambushed and killed by gunmen Friday, officials said. The two were driving from Khalis, 50 miles north of Baghdad, to Baqouba, the capital of Diala province, to attend a regional meeting on the country's Jan. 30 elections, said deputy governor Ghassan al-Khadran. He said a third councilman was wounded in the attack.

    The attack on the Shiite mosque came in the Baghdad neighborhood of Azamiyah, a Sunni Muslim stronghold. Police said a car bomb exploded at the Hameed al-Najar Mosque, killing 14 people and wounding 19.

    Azamiyah was a major center of Sunni support for Saddam Hussein, and the targeting of the mosque may have been a bid by Sunnis to stoke civil strife in the area. It wasn't clear who was behind the bombing.

    Still, the imam of a Sunni mosque in the same neighborhood condemned the attack and warned Muslims to be wary of people trying to ignite a sectarian conflict.

    "Iraqi resistance has nothing to do with bombing mosques and churches and killing innocent people in markets and streets," said Sheik Ahmed Hassan Al-Taha, imam of Abu Hanifa mosque. "These acts are against the law of God."

    The claim from al-Zarqawi's group said 30 people were killed in the Amil attack and only two escaped. The group also claimed responsibility for an attack on a police station in Azamiyah.

    There were no reports of casualties from the strike on that police station, and it wasn't clear if it was linked to the mosque bombing, which was not mentioned.

    In the same claim, Zarqawi's group said it attacked two police patrols in the western Baghdad area of Nafq al-Shorta, killing everyone, but that could not be verified.

    The attacks were the latest against Iraq's police and security services, which have been targeted throughout central, western and northern Iraq in recent weeks.

    In Mosul, fighting began when insurgents fired several mortar rounds at a U.S. base, causing no damage or casualties. Iraqi and American forces went out to find the source of those attacks and came under fire from small arms and rocket-propelled grenades. Some of the gunmen took cover in a mosque that Iraqi commanders then cleared, finding stores of weapons, U.S. military spokesman Lt. Col. Paul Hastings said.

    Maj. Gen. Rashid Feleih, commander of the Iraqi commandos force in Mosul, said gunmen also attacked two police stations, killing one policeman and injuring two. Police returned fire, killing at least 11 attackers and capturing three.

    Mosul's police force disintegrated during an insurgent uprising last month, forcing the U.S. command to divert troops from their offensive in the militant stronghold of Fallujah.

    Security is a particular concern in Iraq with elections less than two months away for a 275-member assembly which, among other things, will draw up a permanent constitution.

    To provide security for the election, the U.S. government has announced it is raising troop strength in Iraq to its highest level of the war. The number of troops will climb from 138,000 now to about 150,000 by mid-January — more than in the 2003 invasion.

    While Iraq's Kurds and majority Shiites back the elections, Sunni groups have demanded a postponement because of the poor security. President Bush dismissed those calls Thursday, insisting the elections must not be delayed.

    "It's time for Iraqi citizens to go to the polls," Bush told reporters in the Oval Office.