Baghdad's Deputy Police Chief Assassinated

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Gunmen on Monday assassinated Baghdad's deputy police chief and his son, police said, while a huge roadside bomb in southwestern Baghdad destroyed a U.S. armored vehicle and killed two American soldiers, the military said.

The Bradley Fighting Vehicle is one of the more heavily armored U.S. military vehicles, suggesting that the roadside bomb was more powerful than those typically used in recent months. The Defense Department said last week that insurgents were increasing the size and power of the bombs they plant as they escalate their attacks before the Jan. 30 election.

Four American soldiers also were wounded in the blast. It came four days after another powerful roadside bomb hit a Bradley, killing all seven U.S. soldiers inside and destroying the vehicle.

Also Monday, a roadside bomb attack in Samarra hit a joint U.S.-Iraqi patrol, killing two Iraqi soldiers and wounding one Iraqi soldier and two Americans.

On Sunday, a U.S. soldier assigned to Task Force Baghdad was killed by a roadside bomb, while a Marine was killed in action in the volatile Anbar province.

Monday's deaths brought the number of American troops killed in Iraq since the war began in March 2003 to at least 1,355, according to an Associated Press count. At least 1,058 have died as a result of hostile action.

Scores of police and regional government officials have been assassinated in recent months, part of the insurgents' campaign to try to instill fear ahead of the upcoming vote and to hunt down people perceived as collaborating with the U.S.-led coalition. On Tuesday, gunmen killed the governor of Baghdad, Ali al-Haidari, and six of his bodyguards.

Interim Prime Minister Ayad Allawi said authorities have captured 147 suspected insurgents throughout Iraq, including the leader of an insurgent group just days after he took over for the previous chief, who was detained two months ago.

Allawi identified the man as Raad al-Doury. He took over the top post of Jaish Muhammad, which is Arabic for Muhammad's Army, from Moayad Ahmed Yasseen, who was detained in November. Allawi has accused Jaish Muhammad of killing and beheading a number of Iraqis, Arabs and foreigners in Iraq.

"Moayad Ahmed Yasseen is still confessing to his crimes and he will stand trial soon," Allawi said. "Every day the terrorists name a new leader we capture him and they will stand trial."

Allawi said Iraqi security forces were getting stronger every day.

Just hours before he spoke, gunmen shot and killed Baghdad's deputy police chief, Brig. Amer Ali Nayef, and his son, Lt. Khalid Amer, also a police officer. They were slain in Baghdad's south Dora district while traveling in a car on their way to work, Interior Ministry spokesman Capt. Ahmed Ismail said.

Gunmen sprayed machine-gun fire from two cars driving parallel with the police chief's vehicle close to his home before fleeing, police said. The two were alone in their car.

In a separate attack Monday, a suicide car bomb exploded in the courtyard of a police station in southern Baghdad, killing at least four policemen and wounding 10 others, police and witnesses said. A fake police car packed with explosives was used in the attack.

The explosion occurred at 8 a.m. in the Zafarniyah district, police commissioner Abdul Khaleq Hussein said. Witnesses said the explosion occurred during the shift change, and an Associated Press photographer saw a number of bodies inside the courtyard.

In other violence Monday, the U.S. military said its forces accidentally killed a 13-year-old Iraqi girl and wounded a 14-year-old boy near Baqouba, 35 miles northeast of Baghdad, when a 1st Infantry Division observation post "engaged an area producing unidentified smoke outside of a local forward operating base."

"This is an absolute tragedy. We do not know at this time what the children were doing in the area," said Maj. Neal O'Brien, a military spokesman. An investigation is under way, he said.

The U.S. military also said U.S. troops discovered a crater containing the body parts of two "anti-Iraqi force insurgents" when a roadside bomb they intended to plant near a southern Baghdad district exploded prematurely.

Eight Ukrainian soldiers and one from Kazakhstan also died in an apparently accidental explosion at an ammunition dump south of Baghdad, Poland's defense ministry said Monday.

On Sunday, Secretary of State Colin Powell was asked on ABC's "This Week" how he would define success in Iraq's election, and he acknowledged concern about what will happen after the vote.

"Success is putting in place a government that is really elected and represents all of the people of Iraq ... and creating an Iraqi security force that is able to protect the country and protect the people of Iraq," he said.

Elsewhere Sunday, Iraq's most influential Sunni group said it will abandon its call for a boycott of the elections for a constitutional assembly if the United States gives a timetable for withdrawing multinational forces.

The Association of Muslim Scholars relayed its request to a senior U.S. embassy official at a meeting Saturday, a group spokesman said on condition of anonymity.

U.S. Embassy spokesman Bob Callahan on Saturday confirmed the meeting, which he described as an "exchange of views."

The first democratic vote in Iraq since the country was formed in 1932 is certain to see the Sunnis lose their dominance to the Shiites, who comprise 60 percent of Iraq's 26 million people. Sunni leaders have urged a postponement of the vote, largely because areas of Iraq where they dominate are too restive for preparations to begin.

On Monday, a militant group posted threats in at least two towns warning it would deploy "highly trained" snipers to target voters around Iraq during the elections.

The statement, signed by the previously unknown Secret Republican Army, said 32 snipers will stalk voters outside polling in Wasit, a largely Shiite province south of Baghdad that includes Kut, Numaniya and Suwaiyra. It did not say how many would be sent elsewhere.

The threat is the latest in a campaign of intimidation by militants targeting Iraqi voters and electoral workers. A number of election officials have already fallen victim to brutal terror attacks, and many have received death threats.