Iraqi VP's Brother Killed in Baghdad, at Least 350 Police Poisoned

The brother of Iraq's Sunni Arab vice president was assassinated in his home in one of series of attacks around Iraq on Monday, police and government spokesmen said.

Gunmen overran an Iraqi military checkpoint in Baghdad and kidnapped 11 soldiers, and a suicide car bomber slammed into a police checkpoint in the northern town of Tal Afar, killing one policeman.

Between 350 and 400 policemen suffered food poisoning at a fast-breaking meal at a base south of Baghdad on Sunday evening, but nobody has died, said Defense Ministry spokesman Brig. Qassim al-Moussawi.

CountryWatch: Iraq

It was not yet known whether the poisoning was accidental or intentional. Al-Moussawi said it was under investigation and "a number of people have been arrested, including the man in charge of the mess hall."

On Sunday night an Environment Ministry official reported that 11 police officers had died, but al-Moussawi denied this Monday.

Sunni insurgents have not been known to use poison as a weapon against the security forces. The poisoned officers belong to the 4th Division of the National Police, whose officers are mainly Shiites.

Gen. Amir al-Hashimi, the brother of Vice President Tariq al-Hashimi and an adviser to the Defense Ministry, was killed by gunmen who entered his north Baghdad home wearing military uniforms, said al-Moussawi.

The general was the third member of the vice president's family to be murdered during the past 12 months. The vice president's sister and another brother were murdered earlier.

Insurgents have often targeted the families of prominent politicians in an apparent effort to intimidate the country's leaders.

In an audacious strike, gunmen jumped out of two vehicles at a checkpoint in the east Baghdad district of Sadr City and quickly captured all the soldiers on duty, said Lt. Thaer Mahmoud of the police.

Mahmoud said he had no further details, but it appeared that nobody was shot in the incident.

The identity of the gunmen, who quickly left with 11 soldiers as hostages, was not known, but Sadr City is a stronghold of the Mahdi Army militia of radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr.

U.S.-led coalition forces said Sunday they had killed 30 Mahdi Army fighters in a battle in the city of Diwaniyah, southern Iraq.

In Tal Afar, 260 miles northwest of Baghdad, the bomber who killed a policeman in his suicide attack wounded 12 others, said Brig. Najim Abdullah of the police.

It was the second suicide car attack in the city in three days. On Saturday a bomber drove his car into another checkpoint, killing 14 and injuring many more.

Sectarian death squads have killed thousands of people in recent months, primarily in the capital. U.S. and Iraqi forces have been carrying out an intense security campaign in Baghdad to root out the insurgents and militias.

At the same time, bombings and other attacks have increased in northern Iraq, although the casualty toll has been lower than in Baghdad.

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