With less than a week before the handover of sovereignty to Iraq, insurgents launched a series of deadly, coordinated attacks in several major Iraqi cities, killing dozens of Iraqis and wounding hundreds. A group led by terrorist Abu Musab al-Zarqawi has claimed responsibility for launching one of the attacks in the town of Baquba, northeast of the capital.
Witnesses in Baquba say insurgents, armed with assault rifles and rocket-propelled grenades, simultaneously attacked a police station, local government buildings, and the house of the provincial police chief.
Coalition officials say a number of U.S. troops and Iraqi security men were at the police station, when it came under attack shortly before dawn. An Australian spokesman for the coalition military in Baghdad, Captain Mark Doggett, says there were casualties.
"Reports indicate that two coalition soldiers were killed and at least seven wounded after an Iraqi police station in Baquba was attacked by about 30 insurgents," he said. "Close air-support and a quick reaction force were called in and they responded to the scene."
U.S. warplanes subsequently dropped four 220-kilogram bombs on suspected insurgent hideouts near the town's soccer stadium.
In other attacks, three car bombs exploded in the northern city of Mosul, causing mass casualties. The bombs targeted the Iraqi Police Academy, a compound for the national Iraqi Civil Defense Corps, and a local hospital.
Southwest of Mosul, in the Sunni Muslim stronghold of Ramadi, insurgents fired rocket-propelled grenades as they attacked two police stations simultaneously. In a separate assault, insurgents attacked a local government building, destroying several police cars.
Gun fire and explosions also shook Fallujah, near Ramadi, where witnesses say U.S. Marines shelled the city, targeting well-armed insurgents running through the streets.
The clash follows two U.S. air strikes in Fallujah in the past week aimed at Jordanian-born Islamic extremist Abu Musab al-Zarqawi who is believed to be operating out of the city.
The terrorist is suspected of being behind several deadly kidnappings and dozens of suicide attacks in Iraq. On Wednesday, he issued a statement, threatening to assassinate Iraq's interim Prime Minister Iyad Allawi.
A statement posted on an Islamic web site in Saudi Arabia said the insurgents who attacked in Baquba belong to a group headed by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. The statement urged Iraqi citizens to comply with what the group termed "instructions of resistance" and promised to carry out more deadly attacks against coalition troops and Iraqi security forces in the coming days.