Brother of Iraqi VP Killed by Insurgents

A brother of one of Iraq's two vice presidents was gunned down Sunday on his way to work in Baghdad (search), while a top Trade Ministry official was wounded and two of his bodyguards were killed in a separate attack.

U.S. troops backed by helicopters and a jet attacked insurgents planning a nighttime ambush near an American base north of Baghdad, killing six militants and wounding and capturing five, the U.S. command said Sunday.

The surge in violence came as Iraqi political blocs unveiled lists of candidates for Dec. 15 parliamentary elections, which the United States and its coalition partners hope will restore enough stability so they can begin bringing troops home next year. The election commission said it got candidate lists from 21 coalitions and 207 other political parties or individuals.

The U.S. operation against the insurgents was Saturday night near Taji, a U.S. air base 12 miles north of Baghdad. Troops saw the militants moving along a canal toward a commonly used ambush site, the military said in a statement.

The militants fired on Apache attack helicopters that were conducting reconnaissance. The helicopters fired back, and the insurgents retreated. When they tried to regroup, an Air Force F-15E jet dropped a 500-pound bomb on them, the military said. Six insurgents were killed and five were wounded and captured, the statement said.

A U.S. jet also dropped a bomb north of Ramadi, 70 miles west of Baghdad, Saturday night killing three insurgents who were planting a roadside bomb, the military said.

Insurgents killed at least nine Iraqis in scattered attacks Sunday, one day after a bomb killed 30 people in a Shiite farming village northeast of the capital.

One of those killed Sunday was a brother to Iraq's Shiite vice president, officials said. Ghalib Abdul-Mahdi, brother of Vice President Adil Abdul-Mahdi (search), was shot to death along with his driver while going to work at the office of Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari (search), aides said. Adil Abdul-Mahdi is a Shiite, while Vice President Ghazi al-Yawer is a Sunni.

An Internet statement posted on an extreme Islamist Web site claimed that Al Qaeda (search) in Iraq had killed Ghalib Abdul-Mahdi. The statement's authenticity could not be verified.

In another part of Baghdad, four gunmen ambushed a convoy carrying Qais Dawood Hasan, an undersecretary at the Trade Ministry, after it left his office in the upscale Mansour neighborhood, police said. Hasan and six other people were wounded, while two of his guards were killed, said police 1st Lt. Thair Mahmoud and Dr. Mohanad Jawad at Yarmouk Hospital.

Also Sunday, a roadside bomb destroyed one of several oil tanker trucks driving on a main road in south Baghdad, sending a fire ball up over the area and killing the two men inside, police Capt. Ibrahim Abdul-Ridha said. Four civilian passers-by were wounded.

A roadside bomb killed a farmer on his tractor and seriously wounded two other civilians in Samarra, 60 miles north of Baghdad, police Capt. Laith Mohammed said, while another drive-by shooting in the capital killed two construction workers and wounded three.

Officials also evacuated a primary school in western Baghdad on Sunday, a school day in Iraq, to defuse a bomb that was discovered by guards there, police Capt. Talib Thamir said.

A new Pentagon (search) report estimates that 26,000 Iraqis have been killed or wounded by insurgents since Jan. 1, 2004. In the most recent period, from Aug. 29 to Sept. 16, there were an estimated 64 Iraqi casualties each day, the report said. A recent Associated Press count found that at least 3,870 Iraqis have died in the last six months.

Last week, a U.S. military spokesman told The Associated Press that as many as 30,000 Iraqis may have died during the war, which began with the U.S. invasion in March 2003. But independent analysts say that figure could be much higher, with estimates ranging from at least 30,000 to 100,000 or more.

At least 2,015 members of the U.S. military also have died since the start of the Iraq war, according to an AP count, including three Army soldiers who were killed on Saturday by a land mine and a roadside bomb in two separate attacks.

The airstrike came hours after a bomb hidden in a truck loaded with dates exploded in the center of the Shiite farming village of Huweder, northeast of Baghdad, killing 30 people and wounding 41, said Dr. Ahmed Fouad of nearby Baqouba General Hospital.

The bomb exploded as villagers were heading to the mosque for prayers or outdoors in the cool evening breeze to break the daylong fast for the holy month of Ramadan.

Police Lt. Ahmed Abdul Wahab said the number of deaths could increase because several survivors were critically wounded. The village is in a religiously mixed area plagued by suicide attacks, roadside bombs and assaults on police checkpoints.

Shiite civilians are frequent targets of Sunni extremists, including the country's most feared terror group, Al Qaeda in Iraq, which considers members of the majority religious community to be heretics and collaborators with U.S.-led forces. Iraq's security services are staffed mainly by Shiites and Kurds.