Violence Flares In Mosul

Gunmen attacked a car in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul on Friday, killing four passengers, and witnesses said three of the victims were foreigners.

The attack happened at the Yarmouk traffic intersection in Iraq's third-largest city, 225 miles northwest of Baghdad.

The bodies of the four victims, including one whose head was almost severed, were seen lying on the road alongside their burning car.

Police Capt. Zeid Waseem said police received reports that three foreigners and their Iraqi driver had been killed. The nationalities were not immediately known.

In other developments:

  • The U.S. Embassy confirmed the name of an American kidnapped six weeks ago in a deadly attack in the Iraqi capital, and his family pleaded Friday for his release. Roy Hallums, a worker for a Saudi company that does catering for the Iraqi army, was seized Nov. 1 along with two other foreigners and three Iraqis after a gunbattle in the upscale Mansour neighborhood. An Iraqi guard and one attacker were killed.
  • The United States on Friday completely forgave $4.1 billion in debt Iraq owed it and urged other nations not part of an international debt relief agreement to follow suit.
  • Saddam Hussein met for the first time since his capture a year ago with a defense lawyer Thursday, the chief of the former dictator's legal team said. "He was in good health and his morale was high and very strong," said Ziad al-Khasawneh. "He looked much better that his earlier public appearance when he was arraigned a few months ago."
  • Insurgents killed 10 people Thursday, including Qassim Mehawi, deputy head of the Communications Ministry as he headed to his Baghdad office.
  • At the Pentagon, a senior U.S. commander said Jordanian militant Abu Musab al-Zarqawi may now be operating out of Baghdad. Al-Zarqawi's al Qaeda in Iraq group is believed to be leading a brutal campaign of hostage-takings, beheadings and bombings that victimize both Americans and Iraqis.

    Another person was killed Thursday when seven mortar rounds struck near local government offices in Mosul, police Capt. Mohammed Abbas said.

    The killings were the latest violence in the city, which was initially peaceful after the U.S.-led invasion but become a worrisome trouble spot since U.S. and Iraqi troops invaded the insurgent stronghold of Fallujah, west of Baghdad, in November.

    Meanwhile, U.S. military spokesman Lt. Col. Paul Hastings said security forces on Thursday found the bodies of six unidentified Iraqi civilians in western Mosul who had been shot dead.

    Residents found another two Iraqis wearing civilian clothes who had been shot in the head in Hamdaniyah, about 20 miles east of Mosul, police said.

    Since Nov. 10, about 160 bodies, including many affiliated with the Iraqi National Guard and police, have been found.

    Soon after the U.S. assault on Fallujah began, insurgents launched an uprising in Mosul, overpowering police, looting or burning police stations — and prompting an offensive by U.S.-Iraqi forces to put them down. Since then, police say insurgents have been targeting security forces and police there in a bid to strengthen their grip.

    With six weeks of campaigning left ahead of the crucial vote for a 275-member assembly, interim President Ghazi al-Yawer predicted regional and international interests will spend millions of dollars to influence the balloting — a statement aimed primarily at Iran and Syria.

    "There are many parties, regional and international, who want to serve their own interests and they want to have friends in power in Iraq," al-Yawer said. "We think that millions of dollars will be spent on the elections process from outside the country. We hope that this will not happen and that the money and the decisions will be Iraqi."

    Al-Yawer's comments came a day after Defense Minister Hazem Shaalan accused Iran and Syria of supporting terrorism in Iraq.

    Interim Prime Minister Ayad Allawi and U.S. Gen. George Casey, the chief of the multinational force in Iraq, separately accused Syria on Thursday of hosting former Saddam regime members involved in backing Iraq's insurgency.

    Syrian Foreign Ministry angrily rejected the accusations as "baseless."

    "Syria sees the repeat of fabricated accusations as reflecting the wish of some people to hide the real reasons behind the deterioration of the situation in Iraq, and to mislead the public opinion," the ministry said in a statement.