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Iraq's Top Targets: Cops, GIs, Oil

Insurgent bombers killed four Iraqi national guardsmen, a police chief and a patrolman Tuesday in the militants' unrelenting attacks against the country's security forces.

Also, two U.S. soldiers were killed and two others wounded by a roadside bomb late Monday in Iraq's capital, while two American Marines died of wounds received in fighting in Anbar Province west of Baghdad, the military said.

A third Marine died Tuesday from a non-hostile gunshot wound, and another soldier died in a vehicle accident, the military said. The deaths brought to at least 918 the number of U.S. service members who have died since the beginning of military operations in Iraq.

The national guardsmen were killed when a car bomb hit their post north of Baquoba, where a truck bomb last week killed 70 people outside a police recruiting center. Six guardsmen were wounded in Tuesday's attack, said National Guard Lt. Mohammed al-Duleimi.

The police chief and patrolmen were killed in a bombing in western Baghdad's al-Washash district. Police, speaking on condition of anonymity, identified one of the dead Iraqi officers as Col. Mouyad Mohammed Bashar, who was chief of al-Mamoun police station. The name of the patrolman killed in the bombing was not given.

A third officer was wounded in the blast, said Zayed Mohammed, a doctor at al-Yarmouk hospital. At the hospital, a bloodied policeman lay on a bed, bandages wrapped around his stomach and leg.

Police in Iraq have repeatedly been targeted by insurgents pressing a campaign to destabilize the interim government. The guerrillas see police as collaborators with American coalition forces.

"The continued targeting of Iraqi security force personnel ... undermines the security of all Iraqis and will only quicken the resolve of Iraqi security forces to provide a safe and secure environment," said Maj. Neal O'Brien, a U.S. Army spokesman.

Elsewhere, saboteurs bombed a northern oil pipeline Tuesday in the latest attack on this insurgent-wracked nation's infrastructure, the U.S. military said.

In other developments:

  • Iraq's 750,000 Christians have grown ever anxious at the rise of Islamic fundamentalism since the ouster of Saddam Hussein last year. The coordinated attacks this weekend that hit four churches in Baghdad and one in Mosul, killing at least seven people, have shaken them even more. Iraqi leaders condemned the violence Monday, trying to quell Christian fears they were being routed from the country.
  • A group claiming to represent al Qaeda in Europe repeated threats against Britain, Italy, Bulgaria and other nations with forces in Iraq in a Web statement Tuesday.
  • Members of the Army reserve unit at the center of the Abu Ghraib prison scandal returned home from Iraq to a patriotic welcome, with their commanding officer saying their accomplishment's shouldn't be overlooked. Meanwhile, Brig. Gen. Janis Karpinski, who was suspended over the prisoner allegations, tells the BBC there was a conspiracy to keep her in the dark, while Pfc. Lynndie England faces a hearing Tuesday over whether she should be court-martialed.
  • President Bush said Monday that, "Knowing what I know today, we still would have gone on into Iraq." Despite reports indicating scant intelligence that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction, and discounting significant links between Saddam Hussein and al Qaeda, the president said Saddam "had the capability of making weapons. He had terrorist ties."
  • John Kerry says he can "put a deal together" as president to drastically reduce U.S. troop strength in Iraq, a pledge reminiscent of Richard Nixon's secret plan to end the Vietnam War and Dwight D. Eisenhower's promise to stop fighting in Korea.

    Police in Iraq have repeatedly been targeted by insurgents pressing a campaign to destabilize the interim government. The guerrillas see police as collaborators with American coalition forces.

    From April 2003 to May 2004 alone, 710 Iraqi police were killed out of a total force of 130,000 officers, authorities said. A truck bomb last Wednesday targeted a police recruiting center in Baqouba, 35 miles northeast of Baghdad, where hundreds of job applicants were gathered. It killed 70 people.

    In the holy city of Najaf, U.S. forces fought Monday with gunmen protecting radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr's house in clashes that killed one woman and wounded three people. The U.S. military had no immediate comment.

    At least six U.S. military vehicles entered the Zahra area in Najaf near al-Sadr's house, which is protected by his militia, the Mahdi Army, witnesses said.

    Barrages of gunfire and mortar rounds set cars on fire before Iraqi police intervened and the U.S. forces withdrew, witnesses said.

    "One woman was killed and we have three injured," said Ajwak Kadhim, director at Al-Hakim Hospital in Najaf, 100 miles south of Baghdad.

    Ali al-Yassiry, a Baghdad spokesman for al-Sadr, said U.S. troops briefly surrounded al-Sadr's house in Najaf but then withdrew from the city. He said the fighting ended and the Mahdi Army was patrolling the area.

    Al-Sadr, who is wanted by U.S. forces for the April 2003 murder of a moderate cleric in Najaf, was in his house at the time, witnesses said.

    The radical cleric, who has grassroots support for his anti-coalition stance, began a two-month rebellion in early April after the U.S.-led occupation authority closed his newspaper and arrested a key aide. A series of truces ended the fighting, and the issue of whether to carry out his the arrest warrant was postponed.

    After the pipeline bombing, Police Col. Nurzad Ahmed, a security official at the state-run Northern Oil Company, said a fire was raging near al-Fattah, about 135 miles north of Baghdad, but the pipeline, which was not an export line, was not on fire. He said a nearby trash heap had been set ablaze.

    "The fire is huge and we have started our efforts to put it out," Ahmed told The Associated Press.

    Maj. Neal O'Brien, a spokesman for the U.S. Army's 1st Infantry Division, said the fire had spread to a nearby construction site.

    It was unclear what effect, if any, the explosion would have on oil exports.

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