U.S. Army Kills 25 Rebels in Fierce Iraq Fight
By Maher al-Thanoon; Wed Dec 29, 2004

  MOSUL, Iraq (Reuters) - U.S. troops backed by warplanes killed 25 guerrillas in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul on Wednesday after facing a coordinated assault involving two suicide bombs and dozens of insurgents, the military said.
  The fighting in Iraq (news - web sites)'s third largest city followed an overnight attack by insurgents who detonated three-quarters of a ton of explosives in a house that police were raiding in Baghdad, killing at least 28 people.
  Witnesses in Mosul said the fighting began when a suicide bomber detonated a fuel truck outside a house that has been occupied as a combat outpost by U.S. troops since last month.
  Lieutenant Colonel Paul Hastings, U.S. military spokesman in Mosul, said a patrol responding to the blast was attacked by a second suicide car bomb, and also had to deal with several roadside bombs before reaching the combat outpost.
  Around 50 insurgents then attacked the outpost with assault rifles, mortars and rocket-propelled grenades, Hastings said.
  "Close air support was called in. Initial estimates are 25 enemy killed," Hastings said.
  He said 15 U.S. troops were wounded in the clashes.
  The brazen rebel assault illustrated the increasing boldness of insurgents in the city, following a suicide attack on a Mosul base last week that killed 22 people including 18 Americans -- the deadliest single attack on Americans in Iraq since the start of the war to oust Saddam Hussein (news - web sites).
  Security collapsed in Mosul last month when rebels overran several police stations in the city, 240 miles north of Baghdad, and most of the city's police fled their posts.
  The U.S. military has conceded it is not in control of some areas and plans to send thousands more troops to the city ahead of  Iraq's elections on Jan. 30.
  Attacks this week on police and other Iraqi security forces have left dozens dead in a sign that the Sunni insurgency, freshly endorsed by Osama bin Laden (news - web sites), remains potent despite U.S. offensives intended to protect the election.

  The Baghdad blast occurred when police entered a building in the westerly Ghazaliya district in response to a call from a neighbor.
  An Iraqi Interior Ministry spokesman said the call was apparently a trap. "When the police arrived and went in, the house blew up," he said. "It seems to have been a trap."
  Six policemen were among the dead and four officers were missing, a ministry spokesman said. Witnesses saw at least one more dead woman dug from the rubble of nearby houses razed by the massive blast. At least 21 people were wounded.
  Neighbors said they had called police after becoming suspicious of a foreign-looking dark-skinned man in the house, which they said had been rented this week and filled with boxes.
  "The house was turned into a bomb," a police officer said.
  Three houses were razed to piles of bricks and rubble, while half a dozen others were damaged. Entire families were wiped out, neighbors said.
  "I saw unexploded artillery shells with red wires taken out of the rubble," said neighbor Mohammed Ali, 35, a taxi driver.

  On Monday, an audio tape purportedly from bin Laden endorsed Jordanian militant Abu Musab al-Zarqawi as the al Qaeda leader in Iraq, and declared holy war on U.S. and Iraqi forces trying to safeguard the election.
  President Bush (news - web sites) said bin Laden's message underlined the importance of the election, which he said pitted the desire for democracy and freedom against the militant's "dark vision" of oppression and bloodshed.
  "It's very important that these elections proceed," he told reporters in Crawford, Texas, where he is on vacation.
  "The task at hand is to provide as much security as possible for the election officials as well as for the people inside cities like Mosul to encourage them to express their will."
  Fresh fighting also erupted on Wednesday in the town of Samarra north of Baghdad. U.S. helicopters circled and gunfire could be heard. Shops were shut and the area was deserted.
  Four men in police and National Guard uniforms were found dead in Yusufiya, south of Baghdad. One had been shot, the others beheaded.
  In other violence, armed men burst into a house in the upscale Baghdad neighborhood of Mansour on Wednesday and seized two Lebanese businessmen, police said without giving any further details.
  Several foreigners have been snatched in Baghdad in recent months. In September two Americans and a Briton were kidnapped from their house in Mansour and later beheaded by militants loyal to Zarqawi.

Additional reporting by Alastair Macdonald, Omar Anwar and Waleed Ibrahim in Baghdad, and Sabah al-Bazee in Samarra