Countrywide conflict

The Iraq insurgency spreads as eight militant groups say they plan to step up operations against the "American enemy" in retaliation for Fallujah.

Published November 10, 2004 3:11PM (EST)

Insurgents continued their attacks across Iraq Tuesday, including a series of raids near the town of Baquba, northeast of Baghdad. Insurgents claimed that 45 police officers were killed in the raids, but in Baquba, the official in charge of the main morgue denied it, saying he had not dealt with any dead from the attacks.

Elsewhere, a suicide car bomb exploded at an Iraqi National Guard camp at the K-1 oil pumping station in Kirkuk, in the north, killing at least three people and injuring several others. Hospital officials said 32 Iraqis were injured in raids on police stations in the towns of Burhiz and Mafrag, near Baquba, by groups armed with Kalashnikov rifles and rocket-propelled grenades at around 7 a.m. A guarded bridge was also hit. At least one of the attackers was killed and the police stations were badly damaged.

An Islamist Web site warned Iraqis to stay at home Wednesday in Baghdad and other cities or they would be "putting their lives in danger." The statement, in the name of eight known militant groups, said the unified "Islamic resistance" would step up operations against the "American enemy" in retaliation for the U.S.-led attack on Fallujah.

A militant group led by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the Jordanian extremist, claimed responsibility for the police station attacks. "Al-Qaida lions launched an attack in Baquba where mujahideen were able to raid three police stations and kill more than 45 policemen," his group, now called the al-Qaida Organization of Holy War in Iraq, claimed in a statement posted on the Internet.

But Ali al-Mahdawi, head of Diyala provincial health department, denied that 45 people had been killed, saying about 20 people were hurt and one militant was killed in the gun battles. A further report said 10 militants, 11 policemen and a civilian were wounded.

There were reports of hundreds of armed insurgents taking up positions in the center of Ramadi, with fierce clashes erupting to the northwest of the city and explosions rocking a nearby U.S. base. Insurgents fired three missiles at the center of Ramadi, damaging a local government building and two houses, witnesses told the Associated Press. There was no word on injuries. Earlier in the day, residents contacted by telephone in Ramadi said there was no sign of U.S. troops in the center of the city, which was in the hands of gunmen armed with Kalashnikov rifles, heavy machine guns and shoulder-fired rockets.

In Samarra, about 60 miles north of Baghdad, gunmen shot dead a provincial council member as he was breaking his fast in a restaurant, police and hospital officials said. Kamil Iliyan, a prominent member of one of Samarra's biggest tribes, was shot twice in the head, said Abdul-Nasser Hamid of Samarra general hospital. Government officials are frequent targets of insurgents, who often accuse them of collaborating with the Americans.

In Baghdad, several explosions rang out through the day. Tuesday's attacks were a clear warning that the assault on Fallujah is unlikely to curb the Islamist insurgency that has plagued Iraq since last year's invasion. For the first time in a year a curfew was imposed in Baghdad, to run between 10:30 p.m. and 4 a.m. In the months after last year's invasion a curfew was imposed on the capital, but it was lifted as the violence appeared to abate.

Another extreme militant group, the Islamic Army in Iraq, issued a statement ordering its fighters to attack targets across Iraq in revenge for the assault on Fallujah. The group is responsible for a series of kidnappings, including the capture in August of two French journalists who are still being held. It said 20 sites had been targeted, including the U.S. headquarters in Iraq, the oil and finance ministries, military bases, embassies and large hotels. In the statement, the group told its members "to escalate to the full their operations against the Americans, the enemies of Allah, their agents among the hypocrites and apostates."

By Rory McCarthy

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