Iraqi guard units respond to attack, kill 15 insurgents

BAGHDAD, IRAQ — BAGHDAD, Iraq - Iraqi security forces killed 15 insurgents yesterday after coming under a barrage of mortar and rocket-propelled grenade fire near the north-central town of Buhriz, U.S. military officials said.

The Iraqi National Guard and police officers were attacked while providing security for U.S. Army 1st Infantry Division soldiers, who were conducting a raid on farmland and palm groves outside Buhriz, said a 1st Infantry Division spokesman.


The battle, among the fiercest fighting since the handover of authority to the interim Iraqi government last month, came as violence throughout the country yesterday left at least eight Iraqis dead. The 1st Infantry Division said its troops played a limited role in fighting the insurgents.

Meanwhile, Pakistan's foreign ministry announced yesterday that it suspects two nationals working for a Kuwaiti-based company in Iraq were kidnapped while traveling outside of Baghdad. The suspected kidnappings came a day after Pakistan's information minister said Pakistan would consider sending troops to Iraq if asked by the interim government and if other Muslim countries also contributed soldiers.


Masood Khan, a spokesman for Pakistan's foreign ministry, said an engineer and driver for the al-Tamimi group disappeared Friday as they drove to the capital, new services reported. Khan said the Pakistani government had not been contacted by anyone claiming to have abducted the two workers, but he said, "It is feared they have been kidnapped."

Militant groups who have snatched foreigners recently have demanded that governments and foreign companies associated with the interim Iraqi government and the U.S.-led multinational force leave Iraq immediately.

On Friday, Egypt's third-ranking diplomat in Iraq was abducted as he left a Baghdad mosque after prayers.

A group calling itself the Holders of the Black Banners says it is holding seven Egyptian, Indian and Kenyan truck drivers. The group threatened to behead one of the captives every 72 hours if the Kuwaiti trucking company they worked for didn't pull out of Iraq.

Yesterday, the captives' company said they had assurances their employees would be freed.

The abductions follow the Philippine government's withdrawal of 51 troops from Iraq last week to meet the demands of militants who took a Filipino driver hostage and threatened to kill him.

In the fighting that started near Buhriz, members of the Iraqi National Guard and Iraqi police officers chased the suspected insurgents into the city, where they continued to clash.

No members of the Iraqi security forces or American soldiers were killed, according to a statement from the 1st Infantry Division. But a hospital worker in Buhriz said that two Iraqis - a police officer and a civilian - were killed in the fighting, and six others were wounded.


In violence elsewhere in Iraq, a spate of attacks in the northern city of Kirkuk left four people dead. An Iraqi police officer was shot to death in a drive-by shooting, while waiting for a ride home after his shift guarding a pipeline, Col. Sarhad Qadir of the Kirkuk police said.

In a separate attack in Kirkuk, gunmen sprayed bullets at the home of a Kurdish family in a predominantly Arab area, killingg a woman and two of her sons, Qadir said.

In the Baghdad suburb of al-Dora, gunmen killed the former head of a Baghdad police district, Brig. Khalid Daoud, and his son in a drive-by shooting. Gunmen also killed two policemen yesterday as they traveled to work at the Mamoudiyah police station, about 25 miles south of Baghdad.

The carnage coincided with the start of delegate selection in Baghdad for a three-day national conference considered a key step in moving the country toward a democratic future.

The conference, which will select 80 of 100 interim National Assembly members, is scheduled for this week. Organizers refused to confirm the location or exact date of the conference, fearing terrorist attacks.

The Chicago Tribune is a Tribune Publishing newspaper. The Associated Press contributed to this article.