Insurgents raid Iraqi police station, kill 18 cops
* 2,500 coalition soldiers and 30,000 Iraqis killed so far
* Bush sets no timetable for withdrawal
MUQDADIYA: At least 18 Iraqi policemen and security guards were killed and 13 were wounded on Tuesday when militants stormed a police station northeast of Baghdad, security officials said.
Thirty detainees suspected of terrorist activities were freed in the raid in the town of Muqdadiya, a security official said. Casualties included a police commando who was killed and another who was wounded when their vehicle hit a roadside bomb on the outskirts of town as they rushed to reinforce the local force.
The US military also reported that some US troops were ambushed while en route to the site, without mentioning any casualties. The militants lost at least three men, security officials said.
The dawn raid, which lasted over an hour, involved a large number of insurgents who attempted to free some of the 250 detainees held at a government compound in the centre of town consisting of a police station, a courthouse and the municipal council.
Firing machine guns and rocket-propelled grenades the militant force broke in to the police station, fighting local forces until army reinforcements arrived in the town 100 kilometres northeast of Baghdad.
The war in Iraq is entering its fourth year and United States has spent 250 billion dollars in this war. The conflict so far has cost the lives of more than 2,500 coalition soldiers and conservative estimate at least 30,000 Iraqis, reported CNN.
Meanwhile in Washington, US President George W Bush refused to say whether American troops would be completely out of Iraq by 2009, when he winds up his tenure in the White House.
Asked at a news conference whether there will come a day when there would be no more US soldiers in Iraq, Bush said, “That is an objective. That will be decided by future presidents and future governments of Iraq.”
Pressed to say whether the 133,000 Americans currently serving in Iraq would be withdrawn by the time he leaves office in January 2009, Bush again was evasive. “You mean a complete withdrawal? That’s a timetable,” he said. “I can only tell you I will make decisions on force levels based upon what the commanders on the ground say.”
Later in Baghdad, a delegation of US senators held lengthy and blunt talks with Iraqi Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari on Tuesday, telling him Americans were growing impatient over the delay in forming a unity government in Iraq.
Republican Senator John Warner, head of the powerful Senate Armed Services Committee, said he and five fellow senators delivered a clear message from the US public. “The American people are of good heart but do not try in any way to deceive them or let this progress indicate to the world a less than sincere and prompt effort to bring about a new government,” Warner told a news briefing afterwards.
“Otherwise Americans will speak up and speak up very loudly,” he said, adding that he had made this point three times in “forceful and pointed” comments to Jaafari. Agencies