BAGHDAD – U.S. troops killed five insurgents and destroyed a bomb-making factory Wednesday north of Baghdad, and dozens more were detained after fierce clashes in a Sunni-dominated province west of the capital.
Scattered violence killed at least nine people, while a claim by the U.S. military that insurgents used children in a weekend suicide attack raised concerns about new tactics being adopted by insurgents as a security crackdown aimed at stopping sectarian violence enters its sixth week.
Iraq’s Sunni Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi, meanwhile, renewed calls for talks to be opened with insurgents in an attempt to bring peace, but he excluded al-Qaida in Iraq.
“I do believe that there is no way but to talk to everybody,” he told the British Broadcasting Corp.
Apart from al-Qaida, which he said was “not very much willing in fact to talk to anybody,” all parties “should be invited, should be called to sit down around the table to discuss their fears, their reservations.”
Maj. Gen. Michael Barbero, deputy director for regional operations on the Joint Staff, said Tuesday that a vehicle used in the attack was waved through a U.S. military checkpoint because two children were visible in the back seat. He said this was the first reported use of children in a suicide car bombing in Baghdad.
“Children in the back seat lowered suspicion, (so) we let it move through, they parked the vehicle, the adults run out and detonate it with the children in the back,” Barbero told reporters in Washington. “The brutality and ruthless nature of this enemy hasn’t changed.”
Other U.S. officials said later that three Iraqi bystanders were killed in the attack near a marketplace in the northern Baghdad neighborhood of Azamiyah, in addition to the two children, and seven people were injured. The officials had no other details, including the estimated ages of the children.
Lt. Col. Christopher Garver, a U.S. military spokesman in Baghdad, confirmed Barbero’s account but said he couldn’t provide more details.
An Iraqi police officer, speaking on condition of anonymity because of security concern, said witnesses had reported seeing two children inside the car before it exploded. He said eight civilians were killed and 28 others wounded in the attack in the predominantly Shiite northern neighborhood of Shaab.
The police officer also said three other cases had been registered since last year in which women and children were used in parked car bombings, although they reportedly got out of the cars before the explosions in those cases.