BAGHDAD, Iraq – Insurgents launched a string of attacks in the northern city of Mosul (search) as part of their escalating campaign of violence before the Jan. 30 elections, killing two Iraqi National Guardsmen and wounding two others in a car bombing Wednesday, a day after another ambush killed three Iraqis, the U.S. military said.
A U.S. soldier assigned to the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force (search) was killed in action in the volatile western Anbar province (search), the military said Wednesday. The unit is based at Camp Fallujah west of Baghdad.
In Baghdad, U.S. forces detained six suspects in the slaying of the provincial governor of the area around the Iraqi capital, the military said Wednesday. Troops detained the suspects in an early-morning raid on a house in Baghdad's northern Hurriyah neighborhood Tuesday.
Gunmen opened fire on Ali al-Haidari's (search) three-vehicle convoy Jan. 4 in the neighborhood, killing the governor and six bodyguards.
Two of those detained were directly involved in the slaying, said Brig. Gen. Jeffery Hammond, assistant commander of the 1st Cavalry Division, which controls Baghdad.
Iraq's insurgents have repeatedly targeted government officials around the country, saying they are allies of the U.S.-led coalition.
On Tuesday, insurgents in Mosul hit a convoy of American and Iraqi forces by detonating a roadside bomb and firing from a mosque, killing three National Guardsmen.
The troops were bringing heaters and other supplies to a school when they were attacked, a military statement said. The convoy was hit first with a roadside bomb and then sprayed with gunfire from a nearby mosque. No Americans were reported hurt.
In a separate clash, insurgents fired on a U.S. patrol in southern Mosul, sparking a battle that killed one attacker and injured another.
In the city of Baqoubah, northeast of Baghdad, gunmen shot dead Jawad Ibrahim, an assistant to the mayor, as he was fixing his car in an industrial neighborhood, police said.
A top U.S. lawmaker visiting the Afghan capital Wednesday told reporters he hoped Iraq's election would mirror the recent vote in Afghanistan in helping to stop militants and smooth the road to democracy.
"Our hope is that we will see something very similar ... (which will) squelch, or overcome and overpower insurgencies, challenges to democracy, in a way that will far surpass people's anticipations," said Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn.
On Tuesday, Prime Minister Ayad Allawi (search) acknowledged that parts of Iraq probably will not be safe enough for people to vote, and he said he plans to boost the size of the country's army from 100,000 to 150,000 men by year's end.
Allawi discussed preparations for this month's election by telephone with President Bush on Tuesday, and both leaders underscored the importance of going ahead with the vote as scheduled, White House spokesman Scott McClellan said.
The prime minister said at a news conference that "hostile forces are trying to hamper this event."
"Certainly, there will be some pockets that will not be able to participate in the elections for these reasons, but we think that it will not be widespread," Allawi said.
Also Tuesday, gunmen stopped three trucks carrying new Iraqi coins south of Baghdad and killed the drivers, stole the money and set the trucks on fire, a police official said.
The attack occurred near the town of Salman Pak, 12 miles southeast of Baghdad. The trucks were carrying the money from the southern port city of Basra to the Central Bank of Iraq in Baghdad, the official said on condition of anonymity.
Police searching the area found the three burned trucks a few miles from the scene before discovering the three bodies of the drivers, he said. The official refused to say how much money was in the trucks.
The Central Bank announced Jan. 1 it would start circulating coins for the first time since Saddam Hussein's regime abolished them in the aftermath of the 1990 Gulf War. Coins were scrapped in 1991, when the international embargo sent Iraq's annual inflation rate soaring upward of 1,000 percent.
The military had no further details about the circumstances of the American's soldier's death Tuesday. His death brought to 1,356 the number of American troops killed in Iraq since the invasion in March 2003. At least 1,069 died as a result of hostile action, the Defense Department said. The figures include three military civilians.
Also Wednesday, a U.S. military official involved with reconstruction projects briefed reporters on the progress in repairing and building new water and sewage treatment plants, power stations and upgrading oil infrastructure.
Brig. Gen. Thomas P. Bostick, commander of the Gulf Region Division of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, said $4 billion has been spent so far on 1,550 projects that also include work on schools, clinics and railway stations.
Still, in key sectors like electricity and oil there are enormous funding gaps amounting to billions of dollars, he said.
Bostick also linked reconstruction with improving security, saying putting Iraqis to work on rebuilding the country would help dampen the withering insurgency.
"I think that if they have shovels and they have the opportunity to go out and do reconstruction and they see a better future in their cities, that they're not going to be joining forces that would otherwise be against us," Bostick said.
In a Wall Street Journal editorial published Wednesday, former Iraq administrator L. Paul Bremer defended the coalition's decision to disband Saddam's military after the U.S.-led invasion in March 2003 and bar senior members of the Baath Party from government jobs.
Some have criticized the move, saying it helped push out-of-work military men into the ranks of the insurgency. But Bremer cited past abuses against Iraq's Kurds and repressed Shiite communities as "monuments to Saddam's army's brutality toward Iraq's citizens."
He wrote that disbanding the army reassured Iraq's Kurds and was a decisive factor in convincing them to remain in a united Iraq.
"This decision ... signaled to the Iraqi people the birth of a new Iraq," Bremer wrote.