your connection to The Boston Globe

Iraqi police chief's home stormed

Bombings kill 77 Iraqis across nation

A US soldier searched two Iraqi men for weapons yesterday near Mushara, about 37 miles north of Baghdad. Worshipers leaving a Shi'ite mosque yesterday in Dakok, near Kirkuk, were struck by a parked-car bombing that killed at least 19. (REUTERS)

BAGHDAD -- Dozens of gunmen swooped into a police chief's home yesterday, killing his wife and two brothers, and kidnapping three of his grown children. The chief wasn't there, but the attack showed the dangers facing Iraqi forces as they try to take over the country's security so US forces can leave.

The attackers, armed with machine guns and rifles, drove up at 6:30 a.m., then battled their way into Colonel Ali Dilayan al-Jorani's house on the outskirts of Baqubah, in Diyala province 35 miles northeast of the capital, according to officers at the provincial police center. Eleven guards also were killed, they said.

They said the attackers arrived in "many cars" and abducted two sons and a daughter of Jorani, head of central Baqubah's Balda police station. The officers spoke on condition of anonymity because they said they feared they would be next.

Iraqi police are frequent targets of Al Qaeda-linked insurgents bent on ending cooperation between government security forces and US troops in Baghdad and surrounding areas.

Al Qaeda has also claimed responsibility for the deadly ambush of a US-Iraqi combat team south of Baghdad on May 12 when militants kidnapped three US soldiers. One of the soldiers was later found dead, and the two others remain missing.

The chief military spokesman in Baghdad, Brigadier General Kevin J. Bergner, told CNN yesterday that the military has been able to identify 17 militants who were involved in the kidnapping and that three of them are currently in custody.

At least 751 Iraqi security personnel have been killed since a US-Iraqi security crackdown began on Feb 14. During the same length of time immediately preceding Feb. 14, at least 593 Iraqi security personnel were killed, according to figures compiled by the Associated Press. The actual number in both cases is likely higher, as many killings go unreported or uncounted.

The US military recently acknowledged that the rampant violence had forced it divert some attention from training Iraqi troops, who the United States hopes will be ready to assume the fight when US forces pull back.

Diyala province has become increasingly dangerous since the beginning of the Baghdad security operation nearly four months ago. But the attack on the police chief's home was one of the boldest and bloodiest in months of violence. It also coincided with the shift in loyalty of some Sunni insurgent fighters, who have joined the fight against Al Qaeda.

A police officer, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he said he feared reprisal attacks, said Jorani is a Sunni. He said many officers from both Islamic sects have sent their families either outside the province or, in some cases, outside the country, and are living in their offices for fear of Al Qaeda, which he said is feeling increased pressure as other insurgent groups turn against it in the area.

Bombings struck across the nation, killing at least 77 Iraqis.

Worshipers leaving Friday prayers at a Shi'ite mosque in Dakok, near the city of Kirkuk, were struck by a parked-car bombing that killed at least 19 , police Brigadier General Sarhat Qadir said.

About five minutes later, a suicide bomber was spotted driving toward the mosque, but police opened fire on him and he exploded, Qadir said. At least 25 people were wounded in the two attacks, most in the parked-car bomb.

Um Zainab, a 52-year-old housewife whose son was seriously wounded, blamed Sunni insurgents . "They want to kill people even when they are praying in a mosque," she said . A parked minibus exploded at a terminal in the town of Qurnah, 300 miles southeast of Baghdad, and hospital officials said at least 16 people were killed and 32 were wounded.

In Basra, 60 miles to the south, a minibus loaded with rockets, ammunition, C4 explosives and benzene blew up and caused a nearby car to explode , said the city's police chief . Police arrested two Egyptian suspects, he said.

A hospital official said that 16 people were killed and 32 were wounded.