Baghdad attacks kill child, 5 others

BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- Six people, including a child, were killed and dozens more wounded in

Firefighters douse a fire after a bomb explosion in Baghdad, Iraq, Friday.

 separate attacks Friday in Baghdad, police said.

A bomb in a parked car and a mortar round both exploded in a busy commercial stretch of al-Kifah Street in central Baghdad, killing five, police said.

Earlier, a mortar round landed on a house in southern Baghdad, killing the child, and two roadside bombs wounded four Iraqi security personnel, police said.

The bombings occurred the same day that the commander of Task Force Baghdad said U.S.-led forces have made strides in fending off insurgents in the capital.

In a teleconference from Baghdad with reporters at the Pentagon, Maj. Gen. William Webster Jr. said the insurgency has weakened since the parliamentary elections of December 15, but the violence that has been steadily claiming the lives of U.S. troops will likely persist.

The task force, which includes about 30,000 troops, has been able to curb the percentage of successful insurgent attacks -- those that cause casualties or damage -- from as high as 30 percent last year to 10 percent this year, he said.

Most importantly, he said, the task force has been able to reduce the use of car and roadside bombs.

"We have disrupted that ability so that they are now conducting more drive-by shootings, which usually don't hit anybody, or they're shooting indirect fire -- mortars and rockets -- which also is mostly unsuccessful," Webster said.

But Webster said violence in Baghdad will continue and warned that "until the government is seated and secure, and the Iraqi security forces are relatively disciplined and fully trained, there will still be some chaos in the city."

Although Webster said the insurgency is dwindling in Baghdad, he acknowledged that the number of U.S. troops killed is about the same as it was last year.

In 2004, 848 were killed, and so far this year, 843 have died.

"We're working hard to reduce that number," he said.

Soldiers killed
The U.S. military reported that two more U.S. soldiers have been killed in combat.

One died when a roadside bomb struck his vehicle while he was on patrol in southern Baghdad. Another was killed Thursday by small-arms fire in Falluja, the U.S. military said. That soldier was assigned to the 2nd Marine Division, II Marine Expeditionary Force (Forward).

The deaths bring the number of U.S. troops killed in Iraq to 2,177.

Other developments

The families of the Christian humanitarian workers taken hostage in Iraq last month appealed to captors on Friday to free the men. The message, including a phone number and e-mail address, was posted on the British Foreign Office Web site. The appeal came a day after video surfaced on a Web site showing five Sudanese hostages, including a diplomat. (Full story)

South Korea's parliament voted Friday to reduce its troop deployment in Iraq and extend its presence in the northern Iraqi province of Erbil for another year. The contingent, the third-largest after the U.S. and British, will be cut from 3,200 to 2,300.

Iraq's government is trying to persuade oil tanker drivers to return to work after they walked off the job because they had received death threats from insurgents, an oil ministry spokesman said Thursday. (Full story)

U.S. troops killed two terrorism suspects and seized weapons near Dawr in Salaheddin province, U.S. forces based in Tikrit said Friday. Troops from the 1st Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, thwarted a drive-by attack Wednesday, killing the attackers. They also found a cache of bombs, mortar rounds, assault rifles and other munitions, the military said.

Iraqi and U.S. forces detained 109 "suspected terrorists and seized four weapons caches in northern Iraq" in a series of actions dating from December 17 to Thursday, U.S. forces based in Mosul said Friday. Most of the incidents occurred in Tal Afar and Mosul, in Nineveh province.


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