Friday, May 18, 2007


Coalition base attacked in Baqouba

(AP) - About 50 suspected insurgents attacked a coalition base in the center of a northern Iraqi city Friday, sparking a battle with U.S. soldiers and helicopters that killed at least six militants, the Iraqi army said. The fighting took place in Baqouba, the capital of Diyala, a Sunni insurgent stronghold that has seen a recent spike in violence largely blamed on militants who fled a 3-month-old security crackdown in Baghdad.
Diyala province - with its mixed Shiite and Sunni Muslim population - has been the scene of frequent sectarian violence as well as attacks by anti-U.S. insurgents. The U.S. military has sent 3,000 additional forces to try to tame the violence.
At 7 a.m. Friday, the day of rest in mostly Muslim Iraq, about 50 suspected insurgents opened fire on a U.S.-Iraqi base in downtown Baqouba, 35 miles northeast of Baghdad, wounding two Iraqi soldiers, an Iraqi army officer said. U.S. forces and helicopters responded at 7:30 a.m., killing at least six insurgents, the Iraqi army officer said on condition of anonymity because he is not authorized to speak to the media.
Residents said the fighting sent smoke billowing up from neighborhoods in the area. One local, who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisals from militants, said he heard heavy machine gun fire and then men shouting "Allahu Akbar," or God is great in Arabic. Others said they saw U.S. tanks and armored vehicles driving through the street, while aircraft flew overhead.
The base was set up two months ago in a three-story city office building that was abandoned because of the violence in the area, the Iraqi officer said. The U.S. military had no immediate comment on the incident. Baqouba and the rest of the Diyala province have been hit by a string of attacks this week.

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