23 killed in Iraq violence
* British hostage still alive
* US soldiers wounded in car blasts
BAGHDAD: At least 23 people were killed in Iraq overnight and on Sunday as US Secretary for State Colin Powell acknowledged that organising elections throughout the country in January could be difficult.
US aircraft blasted Fallujah for the third time in 24 hours in a concerted effort to hit militants loyal to guerrilla chief Abu Musab Al Zarqawi. Saturday night’s strike was aimed at about 10 suspected militants meeting in the city centre to plan operations, the US military said.
Two hospitals in the city reported receiving eight dead and 22 wounded including women and children, while residents said many victims remained under the rubble.
Several US and Iraqi soldiers were wounded on Sunday in a double car bomb attack west of Fallujah, a US military official said. Two insurgents detonated their explosive charges outside an Iraqi national guard base in the town of Karama, between Fallujah and Baghdad, said the official, without elaborating on the identity or number of casualties. The bombs followed the fresh US air strikes on Fallujah.
100 Zarqawi supporters killed: A senior US military official said more than 100 of Zarqawi’s followers had been killed or captured in Falluja in the last four weeks. He said reports of civilian casualties from air strikes had been exaggerated.
Ten people were killed and 26 wounded in an attack on Saturday on a convoy of petrol tankers in the flashpoint town of Latifiya south of Baghdad, medical sources said on Sunday.
Four Iraqis were killed and 10 wounded on Sunday in clashes between US marines and insurgents in the rebel bastion of Ramadi, west of Baghdad, medical sources said. “Four people were killed and 10 wounded,” Doctor Assad al-Ani told AFP, adding that the fighting took place in the Tamim neighbourhood of the city.
In Baghdad, a rocket landed in a busy shopping street in the city centre, killing one person and wounding several others.
On Sunday, the US military announced it had detained a senior Iraqi national guard commander for eastern Iraq over suspected links with the insurgency. The officer, a former general in Saddam Hussein’s army, was the highest-profile Iraqi serviceman detained over involvement in anti-coalition attacks. In the same area the commander was in charge of, Iraqi police recently detained four suspected operatives of Zarqawi’s network.
Powell: Powell said organising elections throughout Iraq in January could be difficult because of the unrest that has rocked the country. “There will be polling stations that are shot at. There will be insurgents who will still be out there who will try to keep people from voting,” Powell told CNN television’s “Late Edition” programme in Washington.
He told the “Fox News Sunday” television programme that the goal of the United States and the Iraqi government was to hold elections throughout Iraq. “It is premature to judge that we cannot have full, free elections throughout the country,” he said. “I think it has to be throughout the country. It doesn’t mean that everybody’s got to vote on that particular day,” he said. “We don’t need a 100 percent turnout of every single citizen.”
He also told CNN that the United States was helping interim Iraqi Prime Minister Iyad Allawi organise a conference of Middle Eastern and Western countries this year to discuss how neighbouring states can help Iraq. The meeting may be held in October or early November, possibly in Amman, Jordan, or Cairo, Egypt, Powell said.
Bigley alive: A London-based Islamist activist who has good contacts with Islamist groups in Iraq said on Sunday that British hostage Kenneth Bigley was still alive. Bigley’s brother also said his sibling was still alive. “I’ve received information this evening that Ken is alive,” Paul Bigley told a fringe meeting via telephone at the annual conference of Britain’s ruling Labour party.
Yusuf Islam, a British singer and song writer known as Cat Stevens until he became a Muslim, urged the militants to free Bigley in a letter sent to media by the British Embassy. agencies