Bomber, Assassins Strike In Iraq

American military police stand guard near the site where a car laden with explosives blew up near the eastern entrance to the capital's Sarafiya Bridge, Baghdad, Iraq Monday July 26, 2004. A car bomb blast and mortar fire rocked central Baghdad early Monday and three Iraqi civilians suffered minor wounds.
A suicide bomber detonated a car filled with explosives, mortars and rockets Monday near the gates of a U.S. base in the northern city of Mosul, killing an Iraqi guard, a woman and a child, the military said. Three American soldiers were injured by the blast.

In Baghdad, attackers shot and killed a senior Interior Ministry official and two of his bodyguards Monday in a drive-by shooting at the official's home, according to the Interior Ministry.

Col. Musab al-Awadi, the ministry's chief of tribal affairs, and his guards had just left the house when the gunmen drove up and shot them, according to Sabah Kadhim, an Interior Ministry spokesman.

A militant group, meanwhile, released a video on pan-Arab TV station Al-Jazeera saying it had taken hostage two Pakistanis working for U.S. forces and sentenced them to death because their country was discussing sending troops to Iraq. It was latest in a wave of abductions of foreigners designed to force their countries to rethink sending troops to Iraq.
In a separate video aired by Arab stations Monday, kidnappers extended a deadline for their demands to be met for the release of seven foreign drivers abducted in Iraq.

In other recent developments:

  • U.S.-backed interim Iraqi Prime Minister Ayad Allawi said Monday that Baghdad will not make any moves to normalize relations with Israel before other Arab nations do so as part of a Mideast settlement. The prime minister, speaking to reporters at a joint news conference with Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, also dismissed Arab press reports that Israelis established a presence in Iraq after the U.S.-led invasion.
  • In Basra, insurgents killed two Iraqi women Monday working as cleaners with British forces in southern Iraq and seriously injured two others, police and hospital officials said. Lt. Col. Ali Kadhem, of Basra police, said attackers drove alongside the women's car as they were driving to work at Basra airport and sprayed gun fire at them.
  • On Sunday, U.S. and Iraqi troops backed by heavy artillery and helicopters killed 15 insurgents in fighting that began in palm groves and ended in dusty streets of a city north of Baghdad as violence surged throughout the country. Military spokesman Maj. Neal O'Brien said the clash in Buhriz, a former Saddam stronghold about 35 miles north of Baghdad, was ignited when U.S. and Iraqi National Guard troops conducted a sweep of palm groves believed to be a staging area for anti-coalition attacks.

    In Mosul, employees leaving the American base, located at a converted airport, said they saw the bomber drive a vehicle to the gates before it exploded, setting nearby cars on fire.

    "It was a suicide operation," base employee Imad Joseph told the AP.

    U.S. military spokeswoman Capt. Angela M. Bowman said a woman and a child standing near the explosion were killed, as well as an Iraqi guard. Three U.S. soldiers and three Iraqi guards were injured in the attack, she said.

    "We had a truck bomb explode here this morning at 8:02 a.m. about 50 meters (yards) from the main gate at the Mosul airfield," Bowman said in a statement.

    "The pickup truck was loaded with 122 mm rockets and 60 mm mortars. The rockets and mortars did not explode when the truck itself detonated," she said.

    U.S. bomb disposal experts were sent to defuse the unexploded munitions.

    Mosul has been the scene of numerous terrorist attacks, including two car bombings in January and June that each killed nine people.

    On Monday, a group calling itself the Islamic Army in Iraq announced that it had kidnapped the two Pakistanis and an Iraqi contract driver.

    The video aired on Al-Jazeera briefly showed the three men and included a statement by the militant group saying it had issued a death sentence against the two Pakistanis. The group did not say when it would kill the men.

    The Pakistani government had declared the two men, Raja Azad, 49, an engineer, and Sajad Naeem, 29, a driver, missing over the weekend.

    In part of the video, several identity cards belonging to the hostages were shown, including one bearing the name of "Sajad Naeem." There was also a photograph of three men — at least one appeared to be one of the Pakistani hostages — standing with Brig. Gen. Mark Kimmitt, a former senior U.S. military official in Iraq.

    Azad and Naeem worked for the Kuwait-based al-Tamimi group in Baghdad, said Masood Khan, a spokesman for Pakistan's Foreign Ministry.

    The men went missing in Iraq on Friday when a convoy of two trucks was attacked, one of Azad's cousins, Amjad Youseaf, told Pakistani television station, Geo.

    The statement by the militant group said it was imposing the death sentence on the men in part because of Pakistani President Gen. Pervez Musharraf's statements about the possibility of sending troops to Iraq. The statement also warned the Kuwaiti firm to stop doing business in Iraq or it would kill more of its employees.

    In a separate hostage-taking, Arab satellite television stations aired video footage of kidnappers extending a deadline for their demands to be met for the release of seven foreign drivers abducted in Iraq.

    The brief taped segments, showing the seven subdued-looking hostages wearing the white, traditional Arab men's gowns and kneeling and sitting on the floor, did not say how long the deadline had been extended.

    Three masked kidnappers stood behind the men, two of them holding semiautomatic rifles and flanking a third who read out their statement.

    In the tape, part of which was aired by TV television stations Al-Arabiya and Al-Jazeera, referred to negotiation efforts by Sheik Hisham al-Dulayni, the kidnappers called themselves "The Holders of the Black Banners." They had announced last week they had abducted three Kenyans, three Indians and an Egyptian, all of them truck drivers for a Kuwaiti company.