The U.S. military says one soldier has been killed and two wounded in an attack in Iraq. Coalition officials say the casualties occurred when a military convoy was hit by what was termed, "an improvised explosive device", near the town of Hamariyah, northwest of Baghdad. More than 60 U.S. soldiers have been killed in similar attacks since major fighting in Iraq was declared over in May.
In addition, U.S. military officials say their forces raided homes in the town of Khalis, 100 kilometers north of Baghdad, as part of an operation aimed at dismantling a local gang that is said to be behind a wave of crime and terrorism in recent months.
The gang's leader, Lateef Hamad al-Kubaishat, had been serving multiple life sentences in an Iraqi prison, but was released last October under a general amnesty ordered by then-President Saddam Hussein. Coalition officials say Lateef is wanted for bombing a police station in the town of Babouq, in which a U.S. military policeman was killed.
Lateef is accused of setting fire to a local courthouse in order to destroy criminal records, of gun smuggling, and murder. Officials say the gang is trying to destabilize the area in order to carry on its illegal activities with impunity.
The raid follows a demonstration Monday in front of coalition headquarters in Baghdad by several hundred people protesting the lack of security since the U.S.-led coalition took control of Iraq. Iraqi leaders say hundreds of civilians are being killed each month, mostly the victims of crime, personal vendettas, and stray bullets.
The demonstration follows the attempted murder Sunday of a prominent Shiite cleric in Najaf, in which three of his bodyguards were killed. It also follows several days of clashes between ethnic Kurds and Turkomen in which at least a dozen people were reportedly killed around the northern city of Kirkuk. The terrorist bombings of U.N. headquarters and the Jordanian embassy have raised feelings of insecurity among civilians living in Baghdad. The Red Cross Sunday announced it is reducing the number of staff in the Iraqi capital after receiving warnings that it could be the target of a terrorist attack.
Spokeswoman Nada Doumani says the decision was made reluctantly, but civilians in Baghdad no longer feel safe.
"When you listen to Iraqi's, in fact they are really getting impatient and frustrated," she said. "Now I do not know, maybe it is difficult in such a situation, where you still have military operations going on, the ensure the basic services. But definitely, Iraqi's are expecting this to happen."
Many humanitarian organizations have received threats in recent weeks and are considering major reductions in their staffing levels.