A suicide attacker detonated a car bomb north of Baghdad on Sunday, killing 19 Iraqis — all but one of them National Guards — in another strike against Iraqis cooperating with American forces, the U.S. military said. Four Iraqi policemen were killed in a separate attack.
Six Guards were also wounded in the car bomb blast near Balad, 50 miles north of Baghdad, U.S. military spokesman Maj. Neal E. O'Brien said. An Iraqi civilian was among the 19 killed while the other casualties were members of Iraq's 203rd National Guard Battalion. The driver of the vehicle also died.
The military said the four policemen were killed while on patrol in Samarra, 60 miles north of Baghdad. A fifth was wounded. Both Samarra and Balad are in the so-called Sunni Triangle, the scene of frequent assaults on U.S. and Iraqi security forces.
"Those responsible for suicide attacks are seeking to halt Iraq's progress on the path to democracy," O'Brien said.
U.S. Forces have stepped up their training of Iraqi police and National Guardsmen ahead of the January 30th vote, reports CBS News Correspondent Cami McCormick.
In other violence, assailants killed a police officer in a drive-by shooting in southern Baghdad late Saturday, police commissioner Najm Eid said. He said a Shiite cleric was also killed in the Baghdad neighborhood of Amil.
Gunmen shot dead a deputy governor of the eastern Diyala province in his car, doctor Ahmed Fouad at the Baqoubah General Hospital said Sunday.
The attacks came a day after Al Qaeda's arm in Iraq issued a video showing militants executing five Iraqi security officers in the street, the latest move in their campaign to intimidate Iraqis and target those who collaborate with U.S.-led forces.
A statement posted Saturday on an Islamist Web site along with the video denounced the officers as "American dogs" and threatened other Iraqis with the same fate if they join security forces.
Insurgents have carried out numerous attacks on Iraqi forces in recent weeks, aiming to discredit elections scheduled for Jan. 30.
The U.S. military and the interim government of Prime Minister Ayad Allawi want the Iraqi police and National Guard to provide security for the vote, and mass desertions from those forces could scuttle such plans.
Additional U.S. troops had to be deployed in the volatile northern city of Mosul to boost security there ahead of the vote, the military said in a statement Sunday. It did not provide the size of the additional force in the town considered a hotbed of militant activity.
The insurgents' video and statement were issued by al Qaeda in Iraq, the group led by Jordanian terrorist Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. Separate photos of the executions indicated they occurred in the insurgent stronghold of Ramadi, west of Baghdad, on Dec. 26.
One of five masked gunmen behind the doomed men reads a statement describing them as a "bunch of apostates" who came to Ramadi to support "the apostate Allawi government and help the unjust American enemy."
"As usual, jihadists have no mercy when it comes to such infidel souls," he says.
The video then shows the men being shot in the back. After they fall to the ground, the gunmen kick them, then pump more bullets into them.
In a separate statement posted on the Web Saturday, al-Zarqawi's group also claims responsibility for a number of attacks targeting security forces around Iraq earlier in the week.
In other developments Sunday, the U.S. military said that Iraqi security forces "decisively defeated" another attack by the insurgents as they attempted to seize a police station in southeast Mosul on Saturday — the fifth such attack in a week.
U.S.-led forces from 1st Brigade, 25th Infantry Division detained 14 people "for anti-Iraqi activities" during operations Saturday in northern Iraq, a statement said.