Mosul endures surge of violence

Two civilian security guards – a Briton and a Canadian – were killed in a drive-by shooting in Iraq’s north on Sunday.

Iraqi police said masked men attacked the guards as they were travelling in a two-car convoy towards a power station serving the east of Mosul where the foreigners worked.

Three British engineers in the first car managed to drive into the compound as the shooting began and escaped unhurt but the second car got caught up in the automatic weapons fire.

Meanwhile, the only woman in Iraq’s interim government has escaped an assassination attempt, also near Mosul.

Police say three of public works minister Nasreen Barwari’s bodyguards were killed when unknown assailants opened fire with assault rifles on her convoy. A fourth bodyguard was wounded.

The 37-year-old is one of five Kurdish ministers in the interim government that is also made up of 13 Shi’ite Arabs, five Sunni Arabs, one Turkomen and one Christian.

Last September a woman member of Iraq’s interim Governing Council was gunned down in Baghdad.

In another development four Iraqis were killed and two US soldiers wounded today during a shootout in Mosul.

Gunmen opened fire on a US military police vehicle in the al-Hadbaa neighbourhood in north Mosul, said the US military.

Four gunmen were killed and two US troops received “non life-threatening wounds” and were transported to hospital, said a spokesman.

Mosul has been a hotbed of anti-coalition violence with near-daily attacks on US troops and their Iraqi allies.

In further violence a police chief survived an assassination attempt on the outskirts of Mosul, but several people were hurt when his bodyguards traded fire with the assailants.

“There was an assassination attempt early this evening (Sunday) targeting Major General Mohammed Khairi al-Barhawi, the police chief of Nineveh governorate,” said Colonel Mozahem Khalaf Abdelrahman.

Unknown gunmen also shot and wounded a Lebanese telecommunications expert in the leg on Sunday in Mosul, Iraqi police and medical sources said.

Elsewhere, a US soldier and at least five Iraqis were wounded in separate bomb attacks across the country.

A roadside bomb near the flashpoint town of Fallujah seriously damaged one vehicle as a US military convoy passed by, a witness said.

In Baghdad, US administrator Paul Bremer turned over the keys of the first of Iraq’s 25 ministries to interim health minister Khidr Abbas, less than a fortnight before the first anniversary of the ouster of Saddam Hussein’s regime.

But hundreds of followers of a firebrand Shiite Muslim leader burned an American flag in an angry protest in the capital Sunday after the coalition shut down his newspaper for 60 days for inciting violence.

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