Iraq: 26 killed on horrific day of violence

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The Independent Online

Suicide bombers killed at least 22 members of Iraq's fledgling security forces yesterday amid a spate of insurgent attacks across the country that also left six US servicemen injured, four civilians dead and a sabotaged pipeline that was still blazing at nightfall.

Suicide bombers killed at least 22 members of Iraq's fledgling security forces yesterday amid a spate of insurgent attacks across the country that also left six US servicemen injured, four civilians dead and a sabotaged pipeline that was still blazing at nightfall.

The surge in violence came the day after Care International, the charity for whom hostage Margaret Hassan works, made a statement on the Arab television station al-Jazeera emphasising her Iraqi credentials. Care's secretary-general, Denis Caillaux, said: "She is a naturalised Iraqi citizen and always holds the people of Iraq in her heart. Care joins with many of the people whose lives Mrs Hassan has touched over her decades of service in Iraq in reaching out to her captors to appeal to their humanity. We call on the people who are holding Mrs Hassan to understand that she is an Iraqi, and to release her to her family and the people who love her."

There has been no statement from Mrs Hassan's captors, and no other developments since the senior aid organiser, who has worked in Iraq for 30 years, was shown on Friday making a tearful video plea for her life, and for British troops to leave her adopted country.

Yesterday's outbreak of violence began with a suicide car bombing outside a US marine base 142 miles west of Baghdad. The blast hit an Iraqi police post at the base, killing 16 security men and injuring up to 40 others. No US servicemen or women were hurt.

Then another suicide bomber blew up his vehicle near a checkpoint manned by Iraqi National Guards in the village of Ishaqi, near Samarra, north of Baghdad. Four guards were killed, and six wounded in the attack. Two other policemen were killed by a roadside bomb in Samarra.

Near the northern city of Mosul, insurgents killed two Turkish truck drivers and wounded two others in an attack on a convoy. And on the highway leading to Baghdad airport, six US soldiers were wounded when their armoured vehicle was hit by a roadside bomb. Insurgents also fired two mortar rounds in central Baghdad, killing two civilians and wounding one, witnesses said.

As night fell, Iraqi National Guards were trying to extinguish a fire in the Khana pipeline north-east of Baghdad after saboteurs bombed it earlier in the day. The blast damaged 150 metres of the pipeline, which transports crude oil from north and eastern Iraq to Baghdad's Dora refinery.

An oil official said saboteurs on Friday blew up a section of another oil pipeline in the Mashahdeh area, about 31 miles north of Baghdad. The pipeline feeds the same refinery, which processes 110,000 barrels per day.

Attacks on oil pipelines have disrupted refinery operations and cost the US-backed interim government billions of dollars.

In Fallujah, the US military said it had captured a lieutenant of its top foe in Iraq, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, in an overnight raid. US troops said the man, whom they did not name, had once been viewed as a minor Zarqawi operative, but "due to a surge in the number of Zarqawi associates who have been captured or killed by [US] strikes and other operations, the member had moved up to take a critical position as a Zarqawi senior leader." Five other suspects were also held.

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