FALLUJAH, Jan 7: A firefight between US forces and guerillas in the strife-torn town of Fallujah left an Iraqi couple dead late on Tuesday, Iraqi police and witnesses said on Wednesday , although the US military was unable to confirm the reports.
In northern Iraq, assailants raked a checkpoint with bullets, killing a policeman and a civilian west of the oil centre of Kirkuk on Wednesday. Hours later, armed men shot dead a security guard from the Northern Oil Company (NOC) and wounded three others east of the violent city.
US troops also arrested more than 80 people in hotbeds of anti-US resistance. The latest shootout between US troops and guerillas in the town of Fallujah, west of Baghdad, resulted in the deaths of the married couple, said the dead man's brother and local police.
Fallujah residents and the US Army's 82nd Airborne Division reported the shelling on Tuesday night of a US forward military base outside the tense city where soldiers come under frequent attack.
US paratroopers opened fire in response, both the military and locals said. Mohammed Hassan Karht said he then watched US soldiers shell his brother Ahmed's home, killing his brother and his sister-in-law, Siham Khalaf.
Police Lieutenant Ibrahim Ahmed said he went to the destroyed building and saw two bodies. But the US military could not confirm if the husband and wife had been killed during its retaliatory action.
"Paratroopers from the 82nd Airborne engaged the point of origin with MK-19 grenade launchers and small arms causing two personnel to flee into a nearby building which was also engaged and destroyed," a military statement said.
"They then cordoned-off the area and searched the remnants of the building, finding no personnel or weapons. Upon questioning, civilians in the area reported two dead personnel were taken to a nearby hospital. No casualties have officially been confirmed by the coalition."
Meanwhile, Iraqi police were ambushed on the road between the northern oil refinery of Baiji and the town of Hawijah, 80km northeast of Kirkuk. "Unknown gunmen sprayed automatic weapon fire at a police checkpoint ... killing a policeman and one civilian," said police officer Ahmed Hassan Ali.
The civilian's car was stopped at the checkpoint when the gunfire erupted at 7:10 am (09:10 PST), the officer said. The attackers immediately fled.
A policeman was also killed on his way to work near the northeastern city of Baqubah on Tuesday. Kirkuk Police chief General Turhan Yussef said armed men opened fire on a Northern Oil Company patrol, killing one of the guards and wounding three others.
"Othman Ahmed Abdullah, 35, was killed instantly and three other guards were wounded and taken to hospital," he said. A security guard was wounded when the offices of the Kurdish Socialist Party was hit by anti-tank rocket, he added.
An explosion also tore up a line connecting oil fields to a pumping station in the area around Hassiba, 135 km (85 miles) west of Kirkuk, said NOC director general Adel Kazzaz.
The US military had no immediate report on the incident. Elsewhere, US forces raided suspected resistance strongholds in former president Saddam Hussein's home region north of Baghdad.
The 4th Infantry Division-led Taskforce Ironhorse, which patrols the provinces of Tamim, Salahuddin and Diyala, seized 53 people between Monday and Tuesday, the military said.
In the flashpoint province of Al-Anbar, the 82nd Airborne and 3rd Armoured Cavalry Regiment detained 27 Iraqis over a 24-hour period ending Tuesday, it said.-AFP