Blast hits Mosul day after deadly attack on GIs

/ Source: news services

A suicide car bomber targeted a U.S. patrol Tuesday in Mosul, killing at least one Iraqi and wounding as many as 15, the military and police said, a day after a roadside bomb killed five American soldiers in the increasingly lawless northern city.

The attacker on Tuesday detonated his explosives-laden car about 11 a.m., wounding at least 10 Iraqis in a predominantly Sunni area in eastern Mosul, a police officer said, speaking on condition of anonymity because he wasn't authorized to release the information.

The U.S. military said no American casualties were reported but one Iraqi had been killed and 15 wounded in the attack. The different Iraqi casualty tolls could not immediately be reconciled.

The attack Monday on the U.S. patrol — the deadliest on American forces since six soldiers perished Jan. 9 in a booby-trapped house north of Baghdad — raised the Pentagon's January death count to at least 36.

Decisive battle
Iraqi reinforcements, along with helicopters, tanks and armored vehicles, have converged on Mosul for what Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki pledged would be a decisive battle against al-Qaida in its last major urban stronghold.

U.S. military commanders say al-Qaida in Iraq, blamed for most serious bombings in Iraq, has regrouped in northern provinces after being squeezed out of the western province of Anbar and from around Baghdad during security crackdowns last year.

Military spokesman Rear Adm. Greg Smith said al-Qaida in Iraq had used two 15-year-old boys to carry out suicide bombings in the past week, one in Mosul and the other in Tikrit.

"We're not sure if one of these children even knew he was being used to deliver a bomb," Smith said.

"These attacks were perpetrated at a funeral, a solemn religious ceremony, and at a school, a place that should be a safe haven for the young," Smith told a news conference.

The U.S. military has some 3,000 troops in and around Mosul, capital of Nineveh province.

Huge blast
Maliki made his announcement after a blast blamed on al-Qaida in Iraq killed 40 people and wounded 220 in Mosul on Wednesday. The explosion was in an unoccupied building that officials said was used by al-Qaida in Iraq to store weapons and explosives.

Defense Ministry spokesman Mohammed al-Askari said tanks, armored vehicles and helicopters were being sent to Mosul for an offensive "very soon."

Askari said the defense minister, Gen. Abdel Qader Jassim, had visited Mosul to meet military commanders. The Interior Ministry said the Mosul push would include 3,000 extra police.

The U.S. military calls al-Qaida in Iraq the biggest threat to Iraq's security.

Despite frequent violence in northern Iraq, overall attacks have fallen sharply across the country, with the number of attacks down 60 percent since last June.

That has been attributed to an extra 30,000 U.S. troops sent to Iraq last year, the growth of mainly Sunni Arab neighborhood security units and a cease-fire by the feared Mahdi Army militia of Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr.

But U.S. and Iraqi forces insisted they would continue to hunt down so-called rogue fighters who ignored the order. Al-Sadr’s followers claim that is a pretext to crack down on their movement.