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Explosion Rocks Northwest Baghdad

American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Dec. 29, 2004 – A large explosion in northwest Baghdad killed at least 22 people, including four Iraqi policemen, and injured at least 10 others at about 10:30 p.m. local time (2:30 p.m. EST) Dec. 28, Multinational Force Iraq officials reported today.

The blast damaged 10 buildings, and initial findings from explosive ordnance disposal experts indicated that 1,700 to 1,800 pounds of explosives were used in the attack, military officials said today.

Task Force Baghdad soldiers, Iraqi police, Iraqi National Guardsmen and local citizens worked together through the night to pull potential survivors from the rubble, officials said.

The incident is under investigation, but news reports say insurgents lured Iraqi police into a gun battle near the scene, and set off the explosion in a house when police entered on a tip that it was an insurgent hideout.

In other news from Iraq, Iraqi security forces decisively defeated three separate Dec. 28 attacks by insurgents trying to seize two Mosul police stations, and soldiers from the 1st Brigade, 25th Infantry Division known as the Stryker Brigade Combat Team -- detained 18 people suspected of insurgent activities during other operations Dec. 28 in northern Iraq.

The police stations came under attack by rocket-propelled grenades and small- arms fire during what military officials said was a coordinated effort by insurgent fighters to overrun the stations in western and southeastern Mosul. The Iraqi police repelled the first two attacks. After regrouping, insurgents attempted to overrun the southeastern station once again, but police "decisively defeated their attempts," according to a Multinational Force Iraq statement.

No police stations have fallen into the hands of insurgent fighters since Nov. 10, officials noted, despite nine insurgent attempts to overrun police stations since that day.

Soldiers from 1st Battalion, 24th Infantry Regiment, conducted a cordon-and- search operation in western Mosul, detaining 15 people wanted for planning and conducting insurgent activities.

A concerned citizen came to soldiers from the same battalion patrolling in southwest Mosul and reported that three people had purchased electronic components common in roadside bomb manufacturing. When soldiers spotted the suspects, they began to flee. Soldiers quickly caught the suspects and detained them for questioning.

Task Force Danger soldiers detained a wanted murder suspect in a late Dec. 28 raid near Balad. The suspect was implicated in the Nov. 24 murder of two Iraqi civilians, and was taken to a Multinational Force detention facility for processing.

Soldiers from the 1st Infantry Division captured two people during another Dec. 28 raid near Balad. The raid was conducted to capture anti-Iraqi forces suspected of being involved in an attack on Iraqi police, officials said.

A sailor assigned to the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force died in what military officials described as a "non-hostile incident" Dec. 28 while conducting security and stabilization operations in Anbar province. Officials provided no other details.

Elements of the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit continue to apply pressure on the insurgency in western Iraq and Anbar province. Lifted by helicopters from the MEU's aviation combat element, elements of the MEU's ground combat element conducted a raid Dec. 27 that detained 17 people believed to have terrorist ties. The raid also discovered a weapons cache consisting of AK-47 assault rifles, an RPG launcher and other small arms. The Marines also found videotapes, documents, and false passports.

Meanwhile, elements of the MEU's reconnaissance unit conducted limited-scale raids in the city of Hit and the village of Baghdadi, capturing and detaining seven people suspected of having terrorist ties. "The 31st MEU targeted known terrorist safe houses during the carefully planned raids," a Multinational Force statement said.

Three people were detained from the raid in Hit. Five follow-on raids resulted in the detention of the four other individuals in Baghdadi. Of the seven detainees, five are believed to be key facilitators of terrorism in the 31st MEU's area of operations.

On Dec. 28, elements of the 31st MEU's small craft company and ground combat element seized two weapons caches in Haditha. The Marines conducted cordon-and- knock operations and uncovered an 82 mm mortar system, a 22 mm anti-aircraft cannon system, 1,000 22 mm anti-aircraft rounds of ammunition, 24 82 mm mortar rounds, 15 to 20 electrical blasting caps, two mortar system bipods, 46 82 mm mortar fuses, some 7.62 mm ammunition, four sticks of TD-4 dynamite, RPG rounds and various high-explosive rounds. Marine engineers will conduct a controlled detonation to destroy the weapons and munitions, officials said.

Marines of the 1st Marine Division of the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force conducted a controlled detonation of a vehicle-borne bomb Dec. 28 near the Ramadi Hospital in downtown Ramadi. Hospital workers noticed a suspicious- looking car parked near the hospital and alerted nearby Marines. Marine explosives experts examined the vehicle and found at least one 105 mm artillery round and three bottles of unknown explosives linked together by detonation cord. The surrounding area was cordoned and cleared of civilians, and the car was destroyed.

In Fallujah, the Bazar and Sook districts of the city were opened to returning residents by the interim Iraqi government on Dec. 26 and Dec. 28, respectively.

"It seems the bulk of returnees are male heads of households coming to inspect their homes and look into the process of applying for assistance," said Lt. Col. Daniel H. Wilson, 1st Marine Expeditionary Force operations officer. "We are doing everything we can, in conjunction with the Iraqi interim government, to restore the city of Fallujah and make it safe for its residents."

Although delays at the entry points are being reported, operational teams from the 4th Civil Affairs Group are troubleshooting the process and will streamline the identification of priority contractors and personnel to ease their movement into the city, officials said.

Rising water continues to be a challenge. U.S. Navy Seabees restarted operation at the pump station on the south side of the city to mitigate the situation. Public works employees returned to the remaining pump stations to continue the removal of water throughout the rest of the city. The stations need to operate around the clock to keep water levels manageable and to prevent potential disease caused by standing water, officials said.

Fifteen trucks of propane gas canisters arrived Dec. 26. The Ministry of Oil is preparing to distribute the fuel throughout occupied neighborhoods in the next few days, officials said. The Ministry of Transportation sent 15 buses to support the movement of Fallujans throughout the city. The buses began operating Dec. 26 by shuttling residents to their homes, humanitarian aid sites and fuel stations.

The Fallujah Department of State representative met with numerous local leaders Dec. 27 to form a working group to foster a new Fallujah governmental structure. The group will nominate key Fallujans from the spectrum of professions to serve as the city's interim council, officials said.

Iraqi Ministry of Health officials, in coordination with the 4th Civil Affairs Group, have made what officials called "great progress" in their efforts to provide medical care to the newly returning residents of Fallujah.

Fallujah General Hospital is now fully operational, with 31 staff members prepared to provide emergency, surgical and general health care. The hospital staff has positioned doctors and ambulances at humanitarian aid sites, entry control points and medical centers such as the Jolan Clinic, officials said.

In response to Ministry of Health television announcements urging all Fallujah medical specialists to report to work immediately, more physicians and medical personnel are beginning to arrive at the Civil Military Operations Center offering to take any medical assignment.

"I am really proud of these people who have stepped up," said Navy Cmdr. (Dr.) Luis P. Tripoli, physician for the 4th Civil Affairs Group. "They don't complain about money or danger. They care about taking care of patients. (It's) remarkable."

(Compiled from Multinational Force Iraq news releases.)

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Related Sites:
Multinational Force Iraq
1st Infantry Division
1st Marine Expeditionary Force
1st Marine Division
31st Marine Expeditionary Unit
1st Battalion, 24th Infantry Regiment

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