A major oil fire

from: Barefoot in Baghdad

BAGHDAD, Iraq (Feb. 26) - A major oil fire raged Saturday after insurgents blew up a pipeline in the north of the country. The family of an anchorwoman for a U.S.-funded state television station - a mother of four who was repeatedly shot in the head - found her body dumped on a street in the northern city of Mosul. Insurgents, meanwhile, killed two civilians in a roadside bombing west of Baghdad, a suicide car bomber killed an Iraqi national guardsman and injured 7 people southwest of the capital and the U.S. military announced the death Friday an American soldier killed in a massive security sweep in the Sunni Triangle. As part of the offensive, residents in Ramadi, the Sunni-dominated city 70 miles west of Baghdad, reported clashes between insurgents and American forces, but the military provided no details. U.S. troops have been conducting an offensive in the region for nearly a week. The U.S. military said an insurgent was killed and another was injured trying to build a bomb in an abandoned house in Tirkit, Saddam Hussein's hometown and the site of a Thursday suicide bombing that killed 15 Iraqi police. The body of Raiedah Mohammed Wageh Wazan, the 35-year-old news presenter for the U.S.-funded Nineveh TV, was found dumped along a Mosul street, six days after she was kidnapped by masked gunmen, according to her husband, who said she had been shot four times in the head. "This is a criminal act. She was an innocent woman who did not hurt anybody in all her life. I asked her several times to quit for the sake of her safety, but she refused," said Salim Saad-Allah, the husband. The mother of three boys and a girl had been threatened with death several times by insurgents who demanded she quit her job, Saad-Allah said. The U.S. military confirmed insurgents had threatened station employees. It was unclear what prompted the kidnapping, but Nineveh TV was attacked last week with mortar rounds that wounded three technicians. An Arabic-language Internet bulletin board recently carried a statement from al-Qaida In Iraq claiming responsibility for the mortar strike. Attackers hit the oil pipeline late Friday, setting fire to the line running about 20 miles from fields in Dibis to the Kirkuk, which is 150 miles north of Baghdad. As the line continued to blaze Saturday night, an official with the state-run North Oil Co. said it would take at least four days to repair the line. Insurgents have regularly targeted Iraq's oil infrastructure, cutting exports and denying the country funds badly needed for reconstruction. Three pipelines were been blown up last week. Acts of sabotage have blocked exports to Turkey's Mediterranean port of Ceyhan, a major outlet for Iraqi crude, for nearly two weeks. Political activity moved apace Saturday as Shiite political dissenters switched course and rallied behind the prime minister candidacy of conservative Islamic Dawa party leader Ibrahim al-Jaafari. The change of heart apparently was linked to Friday's endorsement of al-Jaafari by Iranian-born Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, the country's most powerful Shiite cleric. The Shiite Political Council, which has about 30 seats in the newly elected National Assembly, had threatened to withdraw from the United Iraqi Alliance's after it nominated al-Jaafari on Tuesday for the powerful post. The council complained that the clergy-backed alliance, which won 140 seats in Iraq's landmark Jan. 30 elections, had forced the withdrawal of the man they were backing for premier - the secular Shiite Ahmad Chalabi, the Pentagon favorite to run a post-Saddam Iraq before he fell out with the Bush administration which accused him of passing secrets to Iran. Iraqi authorities, meanwhile, continued to voice optimism they were close to capturing the country's most-wanted terrorist, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the al-Qaida in Iraq mastermind believed to be behind much of the insurgent violence in Iraq. "Al-Zarqawi is very close to falling into in the hands of justice and there will be good news in the coming days," Qassim Dawoud, Iraq's Minister of State in charge of national security, said on Saturday. The two civilians killed Saturday were vicitms of a roadside bomb in the west Baghdad. They died as their car passed as the bomb exploded. Their bodies could be seen slumped in the small white vehicle that was punctured by shrapnel, its windshield smashed. U.S. Lt. Col. Clifford Kent said a U.S. tank was nearby at the time but was not damaged. "While we were going to work, we had just arrived near those tanks (when) the blast occurred. And as you see, were are soaked in blood but did nothing," witness Mohammed al-Duleimi, told Associated Press Television News. The Iraqi national guardsman was killed by a suicide car bomber near Musayyib, 50 miles southwest of Baghdad, Police Cap. Muthana Khalid said . Seven people, including two civilians, were wounded. The U.S. military said an insurgent was killed and a second was injured as the men tried to build a bomb in an abandoned house in Tirkit, Saddam Hussein's hometown 100 miles north of Baghdad. A suicide bombing there on Thursday killed 15 Iraqi police officers.



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