At least 18 killed in bombings, shootings in Iraq

By: AP
By: AP
Gunmen on Saturday abducted and killed four employees of an Iraqi television station who were filming a program about the Islamic holy month of Ramadan, one of a series of attacks in Iraq that left at least 18 people dead.

(AP Photo)

BAGHDAD (AP) -- Gunmen on Saturday abducted and killed four employees of an Iraqi television station who were filming a program about the Islamic holy month of Ramadan, one of a series of attacks in Iraq that left at least 18 people dead.

A bomb concealed in a kiosk used to sell ice killed four security personnel and wounded nine people at a checkpoint in Baghdad, Iraqi officials said. Northeast of the capital, eight Kurdish soldiers died in a roadside bombing that reflected how ethnic tensions remain dangerously high.

The attacks underscored the persistent threat in Iraq despite significant security gains since last year.

Al-Sharqiya television said its employees were seized at noon in the northern city of Mosul as they filmed an episode for a program about Iftar, the evening meal at which Muslims break their sunrise-to-sunset fast during Ramadan, which began this month.

The dead included Mussab Mahmoud al-Azawi, head of the station's office in Mosul, two cameramen and a driver.

An announcer on the station, which broadcasts to Iraq from Dubai by satellite, blamed the killings on "dark forces that are destabilizing the security in Iraq, silencing the voices of freedom and attacking the national independent media."

Brig. Khalid Abdul-Sattar, the police spokesman in Ninevah province, said two suspects were being questioned after a pistol and an assault rifle were found in their car in the area of the slayings.

Insurgents remain active in Mosul despite a U.S.-Iraqi offensive against them and setbacks in urban centers elsewhere in Iraq. Al-Sharqiya is owned by a former chief of radio and TV for Saddam Hussein and has been accused of being sympathetic to the former Baathists who once ruled Iraq.

Prominent employees of Al-Sharqiya have fallen victim to Iraq's violence in the past. Those slain include correspondent Ahmed al-Rasheed and Walid Hassan, a comedian who performed in a series that mocked coalition forces and Iraqi governments after the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003.

Also Saturday, gunmen stormed a house in eastern Mosul and killed a man and a woman, police and hospital officials said on condition of anonymity because of security concerns. A police officer said that the victims were Sunni Arabs and that the man was a taxi driver. Authorities did not speculate on the motive.

The dead in the bombing in eastern Baghdad included three Iraqi police commandos and a member of a U.S.-funded armed Sunni group that has turned against al-Qaida in Iraq, police and medics said on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the media. Seven Iraqi security personnel and two bystanders were injured.

The Kurdish peshmerga soldiers, including a brigadier general, died on patrol in Khanaqin, 90 miles (140 kilometers) northeast of Baghdad near the border with Iran, said Col. Azad Issa, chief of the city's police force. Six died at the scene and two injured peshmerga died later in a hospital.

Diyala is critical to Baghdad's security because of its strategic importance as a conduit for the smuggling of weapons and fighters to the capital. Its proximity to Iran is also a concern, with U.S. officials accusing Tehran of supporting Shiite militias in Iraq.

Despite security gains, Diyala has a volatile mix of Sunni and Shiite militants along with desert terrain and dense palm groves to take refuge in. A large Kurdish community adds to the mix and some Iraqi government officials are concerned that forces from the Kurds' autonomous region in northern Iraq are encroaching on territory there.

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Associated Press writers Sameer N. Yacoub, Sinan Salaheddin, Hamid Ahmed and Muhieddin Rashad contributed to this report.

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