Published March 15, 2004
| Associated Press
BAGHDAD, Iraq – An Arab member of the Kirkuk city council was gunned down with his bodyguard as he drove to a meeting in the ethnically divided northern city Monday, the second Iraqi official in the region to be killed in two days.
In Spain, the newly elected prime minister promised to withdraw the country's 1,300 troops from Iraq by June 30 unless the United Nations (search) assumes control of peacekeeping. A U.S. coalition spokesman responded by saying Spain's role in Iraq had been critical to restoring order in Iraq.
"The Spaniards are performing heroically, and are critical to our efforts here," coalition spokesman Dan Senor said.
The new prime minister, Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero (search), had made similar promises during the campaign for the election. The United States plans to turn over sovereignty to Iraq by June 30 but has no plans to cede control of the military operation to the United Nations.
Zapatero's Socialist party was propelled to an upset victory in elections Sunday by anger over terrorist attacks in Madrid last week that killed 200 people. Voters accused the outgoing prime minister, Jose Maria Aznar (search), of making Spain a target for terrorism by supporting the U.S.-led war in Iraq.
Spain leads the Plus Ultra brigade, a command that also includes forces from El Salvador, Nicaragua and the Dominican Republic. Eleven Spaniards have died in Iraq since August, including seven intelligence agents killed in an ambush in late November.
In Kirkuk, Aggar Al-Taweel was shot several times in the head as he drove to the weekly meeting of the city council, said police chief Torhan Yussif. His bodyguard was also killed.
The gunmen fired from a red car and sped off.
Al-Taweel, a Shiite who founded an Arab political party that later splintered, was known for his frank opinions and was often outspoken in council debates.
Arabs are at odds with Kurds, many of whom were displaced from their homes by Saddam Hussein's regime. Kurds want to make oil-rich Kirkuk the center of a Kurdish federal region in the new government.
In another northern city, Mosul, guerrillas raked a government convoy with gunfire Sunday, killing the regional secretary of labor and social affairs and his driver, U.S. Maj. Gen. Mark Kimmitt said.
Assailants also fired several mortar shells at a Mosul police station early Monday. The shells didn't hit any buildings, but lightly wounded a civilian and damaged some cars.
Meanwhile, a senior official at Iran's Interior Ministry denied a U.S. military report that an Iranian border guard may have been killed in a border clash with American soldiers.
"There have been no clashes and no Iranian border guards have been killed or injured," he said Monday on condition of anonymity.
U.S. Army spokesman Maj. Neal O'Brien said the shootout occurred 10 miles east of the Iraqi town of Mawat on Sunday. American soldiers killed one uniformed man and injured another — both possibly Iranian border guards — who had fired on them from the Iranian side of the border, according to the U.S. military.
O'Brien said the soldiers involved in the shooting were from the 25th Infantry Division's 2nd Brigade.