Police Dead In 'Triangle' Attacks

With car bombs, assassinations and raids on police stations, insurgents killed at least 25 people — including Iraqi policemen and a deputy governor — across the volatile Sunni Triangle, and a militant group claimed it executed eight Iraqi employees of an American security company.

The string of attacks — including one in which 12 policemen's throats were slit in their station — were the latest by the insurgency targeting Iraqis working with the American military or the U.S.-backed government ahead of the Jan. 30 national elections.

Brig. Gen. Jeffery Hammond, assistant brigade commander in the 1st Cavalry Division that controls Baghdad, said attacks by insurgents are expected to escalate further in the run-up to the ballot, reports CBS News Correspondent Kimberly Dozier.

"These attacks are all designed to do one thing...instill fear in the people," Hammond said. "This evil, pathetic minority is after one thing, the use of fear to gain power."

Hammond said that Iraqi security forces will bear the brunt of providing security for the elections and that U.S. troops will back them up only if needed. Iraqi leaders said the guerrillas who are mostly Sunni Muslims and have been blamed for attacks against Iraq's Shiites are bent on triggering ethnic strife before next month's poll.

"The terrorists intend to destroy Iraq's national unity," a statement issued by the Interim National Assembly said. "Their intentions are to harm this country which faces crucial challenges amid a very difficult period."

In other developments:

  • U.S. intelligence analysts believe Osama bin Laden has shifted from outright calls for violence to political arguments in recent taped messages in hopes of driving a wedge between the United States and its allies, officials said Tuesday. The analysts his goal is to exploit some allies' concerns with U.S. policy in the Middle East and to attract more moderate Muslims who distrust the United States but have not embraced al-Qaida's violence.
  • A car bomb exploded in the village of Muradiya, 18 miles northeast of Baghdad Tuesday, killing five civilians and wounding dozens, said Dr. Ahmed Fouad of the Baqoubah General Hospital.
  • A roadside bomb exploded near an Iraqi National Guard patrol in Baqouba, injuring four guardsmen, Hussein added.
  • A suicide attacker detonated his car in Samarra's city center wounding 10 people, including three children, police Maj. Saadoun Ahmed Matroud. Shortly after the explosion, people were told through mosques loud speakers to stay indoors because of a curfew, and U.S. and Iraq troops set up roadblocks, witnesses said.
  • Several mortar rounds targeted an Iraqi police station in Mufriq, north of Baghdad, injuring three policemen, said Lt. Saleh Hussein. The three were hospitalized.
  • American commanders said they were aware that Iraq's insurgents exploit their policy of employing locals on U.S. military bases but insist the practice will not stop, though some security measures may be tightened. The vulnerability of the American stance was exposed on Dec. 21, when an Iraqi suicide bomber dressed in a military uniform detonated his explosives at a mess hall at Forward Operating Base Marez in Mosul, killing 22 people including 14 U.S. servicemembers.

    Shiite Muslims, who make up around 60 percent of Iraq's people, have been strong supporters of the elections, which they expect to reverse the longtime domination of Iraq's Sunni minority. The insurgency is believed to draw most of its support from Sunnis, who provided much of Saddam Hussein's former Baath Party membership.

    Near Saddam's hometown of Tikrit, gunmen attacked a police station, overwhelmed 12 Iraqi policemen there, slit their throats and then blew up the building, said Lt. Col. Saad Hmoud, a local police official.

    The deputy governor of the restive Anbar province, Moayyad Hardan al-Issawi, was assassinated near Ramadi, east of Baghdad, police official Abdel Qader al-Kubeisy said.

    Gunmen who shot him left a statement next to his body: "This is the fate of everyone who deals with the American troops." The statement was signed by the group Mujahedeen al-Anbar, or "holy warriors of Anbar."

    Such flagrant attacks appear designed to cause panic among Iraqi officials and security forces and to provoke a sectarian conflict between Shiites and Sunnis.

    Militants released a videotape Tuesday, saying they have executed eight and released two Iraqis who were employed by Sandi Group, an American security company, and had been held hostage since Dec. 13. The claim could not be independently verified.

    The insurgents claiming to represent three Iraqi militant groups — the Mujahedeen Army, the Black Banner Brigade and the Mutassim Bellah Brigade — said in the tape obtained by APTN that "the eight have been executed because it was proven that they were supporting the occupational army." The other two will be released for the lack of evidence, a statement read by one of the militants.

    In Mosul, 225 miles northwest of Baghdad, a gunman attacked a police station in the northeastern Hadbaa district, killing one policeman, said police Capt. Ahmed Khalil.

    In the central city of Samarra a suicide attacker detonated his car in the city center wounding 10 people, including three children, police Maj. Saadoun Ahmed Matroud.

    Shortly after the explosion, people were told through mosques loud speakers to stay indoor because of a curfew, and U.S. and Iraq troops set up roadblocks, witnesses said.

    In Babil province south of Baghdad, police said they arrested 10 armed men in a raid in the area of Jbila after intelligence indicated the suspects were allegedly plotting to attack a police station there, Capt. Hady Hatif said.

    At Samarra, U.S. troops killed three rebels when they attacked an American post with small arms and rocket propelled grenades, the U.S. military said. There were no injuries to U.S. soldiers or damage to equipment.