U.S. and Iraqi forces trapped dozens of insurgents Wednesday during a two-hour gun battle at a police station south of Baghdad, a day after 100 masked gunmen stormed a jail near the Iranian border and freed more than 30 prisoners, most of them fellow insurgents.
Sixty gunmen, firing rocket-propelled grenades and automatic rifles, attacked the Madain police station before dawn, police Lt. Col. Falah al-Mohammadawi said.
U.S. troops and a special Iraqi police unit responded, catching the insurgents in crossfire and capturing 50 of the group, including a Syrian, al-Mohammadawi said.
Four police were killed, including the commander of the special unit. Five were wounded, al-Mohammadawi said. None of the attackers died.
Madain, 14 miles southeast of Baghdad, is at the northern tip of Iraq's Sunni-dominated "Triangle of Death," a region rife with sectarian violence, retaliatory kidnappings and killings in the underground conflict between Sunnis and Shiites.
In a highly publicized episode last April, there were reports Sunni militants had seized 100 Shiites and threatened to kill them unless all Shiites left the Madain area. Iraqi security forces swept into the region and found no hostages.
In the capital, roadside bombs that targeted police patrols wounded at least six policemen, including four who work as guards at the education ministry, police said. Gunmen in western Baghdad attacked a truck carrying Shiite Muslim pilgrims returning from a religious commemoration in the city of Karbala, killing one, police said. Ten others were wounded.
In other developments:An Iraqi camerman working for CBS News when he was wounded and detained by the U.S. military will be tried next month, CBS officials said Wednesday. Abdul Ameer Younis Hussein's trial was scheduled to begin Wednesday, but an Iraqi judge postponed the proceedings until April 5, said Larry Doyle, the CBS bureau chief in Baghdad. Charges against Hussein have not been made public.Gunmen killed an employee of the Baghdad mayor's office while he was driving in Dora in south Baghdad.Insurgents fired a mortar round Wednesday at a government installation in Beiji during a visit by Deputy Prime Minister Ahmed Chalabi, one of his aides said. Chalabi, a Shiite Muslim, was not harmed in the attack and later arrived back in Baghdad, the aide said.Also early Wednesday, gunmen killed three civilians transporting bricks on a country road outside the city of Baqouba northeast of Baghdad, police said. A roadside bomb then exploded when a police patrol went to the site, wounding one officer, police said.Gen. Peter Pace, chairman of the Joints Chiefs of Staff, said Wednesday that he underestimated the extent of the reluctance of the Iraqi people to accept a unified government. "I think that I certainly did not understand the depth of fear that was generated by the decades of Saddam's rule," said Gen. Pace in an interview en route to Saudi Arabia. "I think a lot of Iraqis have been in the wait and see mode longer than I thought they would." Transcripts from the 1990s show Saddam Hussein was frustrated that no one believed Iraq had given up banned weapons. At one meeting with top aides in 1996, Saddam wondered if U.N. inspectors would "roam Iraq for 50 years." At one point, a frustrated Saddam says, "We don't have anything hidden!" The transcripts, recently released by the U.S., are translations from audio and videotapes of top-level Iraqi meetings held from 1991 to 1997.A U.S. soldier with the 4th Infantry Division was killed by small-arms fire while patrolling western Baghdad, the military said. At least 2,315 members of the U.S. military have died since the war began, according to an Associated Press count.President Bush said Tuesday there will be "more tough fighting ahead" in Iraq, but denied claims that the nation is in the grips of a civil war. "The Iraqis had a chance to fall apart and they didn't," he said at a White House news conference. The president's second full-blown news conference of 2006 was part of an ongoing call for public patience with the Iraq war now into a fourth year.
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