40 Killed in Another Bloody Iraq Saturday
At Least 5 US Soldiers Dead; Unknown US Casualties in Haswa, Kut
Boat Bombers Strike Basra Vessels, Kill 2
As sun sets on Saturday in Iraq, it pulls a shroud over the charnel house the country has become.
Suicide boat bombers drew their dhow up alongside a ship at Basra’s offshore oil terminal and exploded it. A Coalition vessel intercepted another boat as it approached the oil terminal. Two US sailors were killed and 4-5 Coalition personnel were wounded: ‘ “At approximately 5:00 p.m. (1400 GMT), coalition naval personnel observed an unidentified dhow approaching the Khor Al-Amaya Oil Terminal (KAAOT) in the northern Arabian Gulf. Standard Maritime Interception Operations (MIO) procedures required the crew to board the dhow for inspection,” it said in a statement. “As the eight-member boarding team approached the dhow in a rigid hull inflatable boat (RHIB), the dhow exploded, flipping the RHIB and throwing the crew into the water, killing two and wounding four,” the statement said. Iraq’s oil terminals in Basra were attacked by suicide boat bombing on Saturday, official sources earlier said. According to the sources, two of the attacking boats exploded alongside a ship tied up at the terminal and a third boat was intercepted by a coalition ship as it approached an exclusion zone around the terminal and there was an explosion soon after it was boarded. ‘
Guerrillas used a truck to sneak up on the US base at Taji just north of Baghdad, firing two rockets onto it that killed five US soldiers and wounded six, three of them critically. US helicopter gunships then took out the truck.
The death of a Marine in combat was also announced on Saturday.
The almost daily loss of US life in Iraq has provoked a controversy about the policy of the Bush administration in not allowing the press to cover the arrival of the caskets at Dover Air Force base. The photos have now been released on the Internet as a result of a Freedom of Information request.
The downtrodden slums of East Baghdad, now called Sadr City, were the scene of several discrete rounds of deadly violence. Before dawn on Saturday, US troops attempting to arrest suspected militiamen of the Mahdi Army became involved in a firefight that killed one or two Iraqis. A US shell went astray and landed in the bedroom of a civilian family, badly burning the three young girls sleeping there.
Later Saturday morning, unknown guerrillas shot three rockets into Sadr City, one at the crowded market. Cars went up in flames, and retailers’ merchandise swirled through the torrid street, and chunks of human flesh were scattered.
Reuters reported, ‘ “There was blood and bodies everywhere,” said Bassam Abdul Rahim. Angry residents of Sadr City — a powerbase of rebel Shi’ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr who U.S.-led forces have vowed to kill or capture — held up bloodied human remains to television cameras and said U.S. helicopters had fired at the market. They put a sign on a dead donkey saying: “This is Bush.” ‘ The Star says, ‘ After the rocket strike, residents chanted: “Long live al-Sadr! America and the Governing Council are infidels!” ‘. That is, even though the rocket strike was carried out by enemies of the US, Shiites in Sadr City tended to blame the Americans, either for failing to provide security or because a dark conspiracy theories that the US was behind the attack. This reaction was the one intended by the guerrillas who fired the rockets, and who clearly hope to stir up trouble of some sort, either Shiite/ American or Shiite/Sunni. The anti-American interpretation was aided by resentments of the US hot pursuit and clash with local boys early Saturday morning.
This attack killed six Iraqis and wounded 38 according to a local health official.
Three more rockets landed in the quarter during the rest of Saturday, one smashing into a two-storey house and killing a woman, wounding her daughter.
Elsewhere in Iraq:
*Guerrillas set off two roadside bombs in Haswa, an hour or so south of Baghdad. One hit a US military convoy. In response, the US troops engaged in a firefight that caught civilians in the crossfire. Eyewitnesses saw US helicopters taking away US casualties, but no word on specifics. The other roadside bomb hit a civilian bus. It killed 13 Iraqis and wounded 21.
*Polish-commanded forces in Karbala fought gun battles with Mahdi Army militiamen over Friday night in Karbala, killing 5.
*Near a US base at Tikrit, guerrillas detonated a roadside bomb, killing four Iraqis, including civilians and two policemen.
*Guerrillas assassinated an Iraqi woman translator for the US military and her husband as they left a US base (whereabouts not identified).
*Near the Shiite city of Kut in the far south, guerrillas attacked a US convoy and burned an armored vehicle. Eyewitnesses reported seeing US casualties.
The US is increasingly depending on ex-Baathists for security in the Kut area, according to Nicholas Pelham of the Financial Times: ‘ In Kut, 180km south of Baghdad, US forces replaced the police chief and his deputy with two Republican Guards, at least one of whom was a senior Ba’athist. Former officers in the Republican Guard have also been appointed to police posts in Diwaniya. ‘