Insurgents Target Iraqi Police

Insurgents gunned down a neighborhood police chief and set off a suicide bomb near a patrol guarding a holy shrine, part of a series of attacks Monday targeting Iraqi security forces that left at least eight people dead, including four police officers.

Gunmen opened fire on a car carrying police Col. Abdul Karim Fahad Abbass as he headed to work in the sprawling southeastern Doura quarter, killing the neighborhood station chief and his driver, Capt. Falah al-Muhimadawi said.

Across the Tigris River that bisects Baghdad, a roadside bomb exploded near a police patrol in the Hay Al-Amil area, killing one policeman and wounding five others, Capt. Thalib Thamir said.

In Musayyib, 40 miles south of Baghdad, a suicide bomber on a motorcycle blew himself up, targeting a police patrol that was protecting a holy shrine. Two policemen and three civilians were killed, police and hospital officials said. At least five others were injured.

Insurgents appear to be focusing attacks on Iraqi security forces, who are slowly taking over the fight against Iraq's insurgency in an effort that U.S. officials hope will pave the way for an eventual withdrawal of U.S. troops.

In other developments:

  • In Kut, 100 miles southeast of Baghdad, 150 special forces and 50 border guards graduated Monday, the latest additions to Iraq's growing security forces.
  • Also Monday, Al-Arabiya correspondent Jawad Kadhim reported on the Arab TV station that Iraqi police arrested correspondent Wael Essam. Kadhim said Essam arrived in Iraq four days ago on assignment and was stopped by a police checkpoint on the road to the airport, Kadhim said. "They arrested him after they found some tapes, journalistic tapes, in his possession," he said. Kadhim said he spoke with Essam after his arrest, and he called on Iraq's Interior Ministry to intervene.
  • Militants from Abu Musab al-Zarqawi's terror network al Qaeda in Iraq posted a video on the Internet showing the purported execution of a man identifying himself as Interior Ministry official Col. Ryadh Gatie Olyway. The video showed the man displaying his identification card and saying he was a liaison officer with American forces. Olyway said he provided the U.S. military with the names "of officers of the former Iraqi army, who are Sunnis, and their addresses." At the end of the video, Olyway was blindfolded and appeared to be shot once in the head. The authenticity of the video could not be verified.

    Iraq was also working to build a new government, with the National Assembly preparing to hold its second session Tuesday to choose a parliament speaker and two deputies. It was unclear if lawmakers would name the country's new president, expected to be Kurdish leader Jalal Talabani. The president will be responsible for nominating a prime minister, likely Ibrahim al-Jaafari from the Shiite-led United Iraqi Alliance.

  • Security was tightened Monday around the already heavily fortified Green Zone, where the meeting will take place. But insurgents still targeted the area, firing three mortar rounds that slammed into the banks of the Tigris River, just outside the zone's concrete barrier.

    As negotiators haggled over Cabinet posts, debate raged over religion's place in Iraq's much-anticipated new government.

    Supporters of interim Prime Minister Ayad Allawi criticized the involvement of the religious authority in politics, while Abdel-Aziz al-Hakim, the Alliance's leader, defended the role of the clergy.

    "As long as we're alive and as long as Iraq and the believers are there, we will continue to work according to the directions and the advice of the religious authority," al-Hakim told the U.S.-funded Alhurra TV station, according to a transcript provided by his office.

    "The religious authority does not want to intervene in the details. It just gives direction when it thinks it will be beneficial."

    Secular-minded politicians have expressed concern about the influence of religion in the National Assembly.

    In a letter to the alliance, politicians who ran under an Allawi coalition warned that allowing religion to play a greater role in Iraq's government could "lead to instability in the relations between political forces in the Iraqi arena."

    Shiite leaders repeatedly have denied they are seeking an Islamic state like that of neighboring Iran, saying they plan to include Kurdish and Sunni Arabs in the government.

    The top U.N. envoy in Iraq, Ashraf Qazi, said Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani told him during a meeting Sunday in Najaf that the Shiite spiritual leader did not intend to involve himself in any political process, except for expressing his opinion during crises. The Alliance came together under al-Sistani's guidance.