Vol. 5 Num 571 Tue. January 03, 2006  

18 killed in Iraq violence
Attack on Turkey's ambassador

At least 18 people were killed in Iraq yesterday, including seven new police recruits blown up by a suicide bomber as they travelled on a bus.

The recruits were struck by a car bomb near Baquba, north of the capital, as they headed for the northern Kurdish region to undergo training. Thirteen recruits were wounded.

At least 11 more Iraqis were killed by insurgents elsewhere, including two children whose family was machine-gunned in a car and an ambulance driver shot through the head as he drove to a hospital, security officials said.

Turkey's ambassador to Iraq, Unal Cevikoz, survived an ambush on his convoy as it drove through western Baghdad, his embassy said.

Cevikoz was travelling back from near the airport to his embassy when gunshots were fired at all three cars in his convoy, a diplomat said on condition anonymity. "Nobody was hurt," the diplomat added.

There have been numerous attacks on diplomats in the violence-wracked Iraqi capital with several being kidnapped and killed, including the top Egyptian envoy and two Algerian diplomats.

Iraq's oil ministry spokesman, meanwhile, said crude exports had hit a record post-war low, dropping to 1.1 million barrels a day (bpd) in December compared to an average of 1.6 million bpd earlier in the year.

"This was due to a combination of bad weather in the Gulf" where tankers hook up at terminals to take on crude and to "lack of electricity" to pump the oil, along with insurgent attacks, Assim Jihad said.

In the latest unrest, Monday's death toll was in keeping with the daily average for the past year, according to government statistics obtained by AFP.

The statistics, compiled by the health, defence and interior ministries, put the number of Iraqi dead in 2005 at 5,713. More than 4,000 were civilians, while 1,693 were from the security forces.

Those wounded totalled 8,378, including more than 6,000 civilians.

September was the bloodiest month for civilians with 557 dead, while January when elections were held for an interim parliament was the least deadly with 162 civilians killed.

Security forces suffered their highest number of fatal casualties in May with 238 dead, while the lowest figure was recorded in October with 105 killed.

A total of 1,702 rebels were killed and 9,264 arrested during 2005, according to the government figures.

US President George Bush has suggested that 30,000 Iraqis have been killed since the start of the war in 2003, but some non-governmental organisations have put the figure much higher.

At least 844 US soldiers and more than 30 other coalition soldiers also died in 2005 in Iraq, according to figures released by the Iraq Coalition Casualty Count, a non-profit organisation that tracks casualties.

On Monday, the civilians killed included two boys, aged seven and 10, who died in a drive-by shooting when gunmen targeted their parents' car south of Kirkuk. The parents were wounded.

The ambulance driver was shot dead in Kirkuk itself.

Three more men were shot dead while travelling in a car just south of Baghdad, near Iskandariyah.

Two Iraqi soldiers died when their patrol was hit by a roadside bomb near Dujail, north of Baghdad. Another soldier was killed and an officer wounded in a drive-by shooting on the road between Baiji and Tikrit.