Spokesman: Gunfire Hits Iranian Convoy In Baghdad

By: AP
By: AP

BAGHDAD - An Iranian Embassy convoy came under fire in Baghdad, wounding two Iranian diplomats and two other staff, a spokesman said Friday. Tehran accused the United States of encouraging attacks against Iranian interests in Iraq.

The U.S. military said Americans were "in no way involved in this attack" and said that it "condemns any attack on guests or visitors of any country."

It was not clear who shot at the convoy. An Iraqi Interior Ministry official said Iraqi soldiers exchanged fire with guards in an argument that broke out when members of the convoy failed to produce identification cards.

Iranian Embassy spokesman Manoucher Taslimi said he did not know who the gunmen were but said the convoy was attacked while it was en route to a revered Shiite shrine in the northern neighborhood of Kazimiyah.

The shooting comes as relations between Iraq's Shiite-led government and the rulers in neighboring Iran have come under unprecedented strains as Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki moves against rivals and negotiates long-term pacts with Washington.

The U.S. military also has stepped up allegations that Tehran is arming and funding Shiite militias who have been engaged in fierce clashes with American and Iraqi troops in Baghdad. Iran denies that it is fueling the violence.

The shooting of the Iranians occurred about 5:30 p.m. Thursday as their convoy approached a bridge that links Kazimiyah with the predominantly Sunni area of Azamiyah, Taslimi said.

Taslimi said the wounded — two Iranian diplomats, an Iranian and an Iraqi administrative employee — were in stable condition.

The Interior Ministry official said five people were wounded when the two-vehicle Iranian convoy exchanged fire with Iraqi soldiers at a checkpoint near the bridge after most of the Iranians failed to produce identification cards.

"The checkpoint staff asked them for ID cards, but nobody had one except for one Iranian called Abu al-Fadhil," the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity because he wasn't authorized to release the information.

Lt. David Russell, a U.S. military spokesman in Baghdad, said the Iraqi army had found four wounded Iranians in a vehicle with an Iraqi driver. The discrepancy in numbers could not immediately be reconciled.

In an e-mailed message, Russell said reports indicate the Iraqi security forces "handled the situation appropriately and with a high degree of professionalism, once again demonstrating their capability at maintaining security in their districts."

A spokesman for Iran's Foreign Ministry blamed the United States for the shooting, saying "the suspicious behavior of U.S. forces" has led to "increasing insecurity in Iraq."

"Responsibility for providing security to diplomats as well as diplomatic and international bodies in Iraq rests with the occupiers," Foreign Ministry spokesman Mohammad Ali Hosseini said Friday in a statement that was obtained by The Associated Press.

Hosseini said Iran will pursue the case with Iraqi government officials.

Meanwhile, al-Maliki offered members of armed groups in the northern city of Mosul amnesty and unspecified monetary compensation in exchange for surrendering their weapons.

The gunmen have 10 days starting Friday to hand over medium and heavy weapons and receive unspecified monetary compensation in return, the prime minister's office said in a statement.

It also extended the offer to those described as "duped" into taking up arms against the government as long as they were not involved in crimes against civilians and did not "have blood on their hands."

Al-Maliki's amnesty offer comes as his government wages an offensive against al-Qaida militants in Mosul — a city the U.S. military has dubbed the terror network's last urban stronghold in Iraq.

Also Friday, the so-called "general military command" of the Mahdi Army militia that is loyal to anti-U.S. cleric Muqtada al-Sadr called on followers to adhere to an agreement reached this week to end clashes in Baghdad's Sadr City district.

The area has been relatively calm since the cease-fire, but sporadic fighting has continued. U.S. soldiers killed six militants firing rocket-propelled grenades and small-arms fire Thursday night in Shula, another Shiite militia stronghold in northwestern Baghdad, the military said.

In a statement circulated in the Mahdi Army stronghold before Friday prayers, the group praised the "resistance against occupation and tyranny."

But it called on them to "cease fire and obey orders and instructions" to prevent more bloodshed among Iraqi civilians.

"We are confident of your obedience to your leadership in spite of all the challenges, the statement said. "Let all hear, that if any party violates the agreement, we will have another attitude toward it."

In violence Friday, a suicide bomber driving a small truck targeted a police station west of Baghdad in Fallujah, causing part of the building to collapse and killing a 6-month-old child who was struck by shrapnel in a nearby house, officials said.

Eight people, including four policemen, were wounded, according to police and hospital officials. A photographer and a cameraman for Reuters were beaten by Iraqi police at the site, the news agency said

A vehicle ban was imposed on part of the city after the bombing, the latest in a series of attacks in Anbar province that suggest insurgents could be trying to regroup there.

___

Associated Press Writer Ali Akbar Dareini in Tehran, Iran, contributed to this report.


Comments are posted from viewers like you and do not always reflect the views of this station.
powered by Disqus
631 SW Commerce Pl. Topeka, Kansas 66615 phone: 785-272-6397 fax: 785-272-1363 email: feedback@wibw.com
Copyright © 2002-2014 - Designed by Gray Digital Media - Powered by Clickability 19008729 - wibw.com/a?a=19008729
Gray Television, Inc.