Security chief killed on day of lethal violence in Iraq

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The Independent Online

The commander of an Iraqi counter-terrorism unit has been assassinated in a further demonstration of the insurgency's penetration of government structures on a day that saw massive loss of life across Iraq.

The commander of an Iraqi counter-terrorism unit has been assassinated in a further demonstration of the insurgency's penetration of government structures on a day that saw massive loss of life across Iraq.

Maj-Gen Wael al-Rubaye, a security adviser to the Iraqi cabinet, was shot dead while being driven to work. His bodyguard and driver also died in the ambush by gunmen in two cars at 8.45am in the Mansur district. A group led by the Jordanian-born militant Abu Musab al-Zarqawi claimed responsibility for the killing in a statement posted on an internet site normally used by the rebels.

The assassinaion took place during another lethal day across the country which culminated with two car bombs exploding outside the offices of a Shia organisation in the town of Tal Afar in northern Iraq, leaving at least 20 people dead.

Earlier, a car bombing of a north Baghdad restaurant at lunchtime left eight people dead and 110 injured. The Habaniyah restaurant near Sadr City is said to be frequented by followers of the Shia militia leader Muqtada al-Sadr as well as local police officers and soldiers.

Most of the casualties were members of the security forces. But Iraqi police said they regarded the attack as designed to inflame relations between Shia and Sunni communities. Sunni militias have been accused of stepping up sectarian attacks since Shia-dominated parties won the elections at the end of January.

Later, a suicide car bomber targeted a Shia mosque in Mahmoudiya, a mixed Sunni and Shia town 25 miles south of Baghdad, killing 10 people and wounding 23, many of them children, doctors said.

A suicide bomber killed five people and wounded 13 when he drove an explosives-packed pick-up truck into a crowd outside a council office in the northern town of Tuz Khormato.

Iraqi and US forces had launched a major offensive in Baghdad, arresting 285 suspects, in an attempt to counter a new upsurge in violence which has left 400 dead in the past two weeks.

They insisted the operation,Squeeze Play, had been successful and that information gleaned had led to the capture of Muthanna Shihab al-Douri, an alleged insurgent leader and the nephew of Izzat Ibrahim al-Douri, previously a senior member of Saddam Hussein's regime.

But the killing of Maj-Gen Rubaye, the 17th government official to be assassinated in the past month, and the latest spate of car-bombings, were being highlighted as an example of how little control the Iraqi government and itsAmerican sponsor is able to exercise.

The aim of the insurgents was now "to prove that Iraq is ungovernable", a senior British official said. "They've got very good penetration," he said.

Zarqawi's group also said it had killed an American pilot it had captured, naming him as Neenus Khoshaba. His brother, Bolus, said: "Neenus had never worked for the US military. He was looking for work in Iraq and all we know is that he has been kidnapped."

Despite the claims by Zarqawi's group, there is some scepticism among officials in Iraq that the insurgency is mainly the work of foreign fighters.

"If Zarqawi and his merry men were rounded up, would the insurgency stop? No. It is more complex than that," the British official said.

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