Fears Iraqi Insurgency Spreading

U.S. troops opened fire after an explosion near a military convoy Monday in Mosul, as fears grew that the anti-coalition insurgency was spreading north a day after two American soldiers were savagely beaten and killed in the same city.

Near the northern city of Kirkuk, an oil pipeline was on fire Monday. Adel al-Qazzaz, manager of the Northern Oil Company, said he believed sabotage was to blame. Insurgents have repeatedly targeted pipelines, and sabotage of oil infrastructure has become a major problem for the U.S.-run coalition.

In the Mosul attack, gunmen activated a roadside bomb and opened fire on the convoy, injuring a soldier, the military said.

Local residents said U.S. troops immediately cordoned the area in Hay al-Dobat neighborhood. "I heard a strong explosion saw the Americans randomly shooting in all directions," said Omar Hamed, a witness.

In other developments:

  • President Bush heads to Fort Carson, Colo., to visit a military community hit hard by the war in Iraq. Twenty-seven soldiers from the post have died.
  • The U.S.-led coalition said it had grounded commercial flights after the military confirmed that a missile struck a DHL cargo plane that landed Saturday at Baghdad International Airport with its wing aflame.
  • The New York Times reports the Iranian-backed Shiite group Hezbollah is active in Iraq but is refraining from attacks on Americans.
  • The Care Australia aid agency said Monday it was considering its future in Iraq following a weekend attack on its Baghdad office. Several other aid groups have ended or curtailed their missions in Iraq after recent violence.
  • British Home Secretary David Blunkett said in an interview published Monday that Iraqi asylum seekers could be forced to return home.
  • The Pentagon is investigating corruption charges against members of the U.S.-led Coalition Provisional Authority and an Iraqi official related to the sale of coveted mobile phone licenses, the Financial Times reports.
  • Civil liberties groups are criticizing an FBI memo detailed some of the tactics used by anti-war protesters and urged police to report suspicious or unlawful activity to their local Joint Terrorism Task Force. The FBI says the memo merely contained basic advice for local police departments.

    On Sunday, gunmen in Mosul shot two American soldiers driving through the city center, sending their vehicle crashing into a wall. About a dozen swarming teenagers dragged the men out of the wreckage and beat them with concrete blocks, the witnesses said.

    "One of the soldiers was shot under the chin and the bullet came out of his head. I saw the hole in his helmet. The other was shot in the throat," said Bahaa Jassim, a witness.

    The city is 250 miles north of Baghdad.

    Some people looted the vehicle of weapons, CDs and a backpack, Jassim said.

    The frenzy recalled the October 1993 scene in Somalia, when locals dragged the bodies of U.S. Marines killed in fighting with warlords through the streets.

    The savagery of the attack was unusual for Mosul, once touted as a success story in sharp contrast to the anti-American violence seen in Sunni Muslim areas just north and west of Baghdad.

    Members of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan said U.S. troops and Iraqi police raided one of their offices in Mosul about 10:00 a.m. A party member, Salem Hussein, said the Americans arrested two PUK guards and confiscated four Kalashnikov rifles, a television set, a computer, a printer, a satellite receiver and a small amount of cash.

    U.S. military officials said that someone opened fire on Iraqi police and ran into a PUK building but had no other details.

    In recent weeks, attacks against U.S. troops and their Iraqi allies — such as policemen and politicians working for the interim Iraqi administration — have increased in the region surrounding Mosul.

    In Kirkuk, 150 miles north of Baghdad, three American civilian contractors from the U.S. firm Kellogg Brown & Root were injured Sunday when a bomb exploded at an oil compound.

    In Baqouba, just north of Baghdad, insurgents detonated a roadside bomb as a 4th Infantry Division convoy passed, killing one soldier and wounding two others, the military said Sunday.

    Sunday's deaths brought to 427 the number of U.S. service members who have died since the war began.

    And gunmen killed the Iraqi police chief of Latifiyah, 20 miles south of Baghdad, and his bodyguard and driver, American and Iraqi officials said. That was at least the third Iraqi official murdered in the past week.

    An Iraqi Sunni Muslim religious leader Monday called on U.S. forces and resistance groups to observe a one-week cease-fire to allow the Iraqis to celebrate Eid al-Fitr, which marks the end of the holy month of Ramadan, media reports said.