Aussie troops attacked in Iraq


Summary

It's understood the soldiers were on a routine security mission in Samawah City, the capital of Al Muthanna province, when they were attacked.

"As they were leaving the provincial joint operations centre, coming out through the back gate, down a side alley, they were engaged by two to three people," Lieut Col Rawlins told the ABC.

"(There was) one rocket-propelled grenade and a small burst of fire from an AK-47."

Lieut Col Rawlins said none of the Australian soldiers were hit.

They fired back at their attackers, but missed as well, he said.

"They fired around five rounds of small arms fire. They only caught them as they were fleeing the scene," he said.

"We'll now hand it over to the authorities to investigate."

Defence officials were unavailable for further comment at this stage.

Car bombs kill 20

Meanwhile suicide car bombers killed 20 more people as Iraqi and American forces battled to regain the initiative on a day where violence claimed at least 40 lives.

The attacks come one day after 59 Iraqis, nine US soldiers and a Russian journalist were killed across the country.

Security officials say twin car bombs exploded today in the provincial capital of Ramadi, west of the capital, killing at least 20 people.

Mortar fire hit a family home in the mostly Shi'ite Bayaa district in southwest Baghdad, killing five people from the same family.

Baghdad and Washington have responded with a massive security plan backed up by a 28,000-strong surge in US troop reinforcements, designed to quell sectarian fighting and hunt down the car bomb gangs.

US colonel shot

In other incidents, a US combat brigade commander was shot by a sniper while surveying the construction of a wall to protect a Sunni Arab enclave in Baghdad, the US military said.

Colonel Billy Don Farris, commander of the 2nd "Falcon" Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, was shot in eastern Adhamiya on May 3, a statement said.

Colonel Farris, who was hit by a single bullet, was evacuated from the area and is in stable condition.

Initial plans to build a controversial 5km wall with concrete barriers up to 3.5 metres high drew bitter complaints from residents in Adhamiya, which is surrounded on three sides by Shi'ite districts.

They said the project would isolate them from other communities and sharpen sectarian tensions.

Shi'ite Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki ordered a halt to its construction. The Iraqi military later said it was modifying the plan to use barbed wire and smaller cement barriers instead.

Bush, Maliki discuss Iraq reconciliation

On the political front, Prime Minister Maliki told US President George W. Bush that he's determined to reconcile warring parties in Iraq.

Mr Maliki "reiterated his determination not only to continue the process, but to work for reconciliation within Iraq," said White House spokesman Tony Snow.

The two leaders, speaking by secure videoconference, also discussed the conference last week at the Egyptian Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh that aimed to build regional support for Iraq, Mr Snow told reporters.

"Then they proceeded to talk about matters of mutual interest, both regional relations and also outreach within Iraq," Snow said amid deep concerns in Washington that Mr Maliki is not doing enough to defuse sectarian tensions.

Mr Snow pointed to Mr Maliki's recent visit to the western city of Ramadi, a hotbed of Sunni insurgency, in an attempt to show his government is starting to master the security situation.


It's understood the soldiers were on a routine security mission in Samawah City, the capital of Al Muthanna province, when they were attacked.

"As they were leaving the provincial joint operations centre, coming out through the back gate, down a side alley, they were engaged by two to three people," Lieut Col Rawlins told the ABC.

"(There was) one rocket-propelled grenade and a small burst of fire from an AK-47."

Lieut Col Rawlins said none of the Australian soldiers were hit.

They fired back at their attackers, but missed as well, he said.

"They fired around five rounds of small arms fire. They only caught them as they were fleeing the scene," he said.

"We'll now hand it over to the authorities to investigate."

Defence officials were unavailable for further comment at this stage.

Car bombs kill 20

Meanwhile suicide car bombers killed 20 more people as Iraqi and American forces battled to regain the initiative on a day where violence claimed at least 40 lives.

The attacks come one day after 59 Iraqis, nine US soldiers and a Russian journalist were killed across the country.

Security officials say twin car bombs exploded today in the provincial capital of Ramadi, west of the capital, killing at least 20 people.

Mortar fire hit a family home in the mostly Shi'ite Bayaa district in southwest Baghdad, killing five people from the same family.

Baghdad and Washington have responded with a massive security plan backed up by a 28,000-strong surge in US troop reinforcements, designed to quell sectarian fighting and hunt down the car bomb gangs.

US colonel shot

In other incidents, a US combat brigade commander was shot by a sniper while surveying the construction of a wall to protect a Sunni Arab enclave in Baghdad, the US military said.

Colonel Billy Don Farris, commander of the 2nd "Falcon" Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, was shot in eastern Adhamiya on May 3, a statement said.

Colonel Farris, who was hit by a single bullet, was evacuated from the area and is in stable condition.

Initial plans to build a controversial 5km wall with concrete barriers up to 3.5 metres high drew bitter complaints from residents in Adhamiya, which is surrounded on three sides by Shi'ite districts.

They said the project would isolate them from other communities and sharpen sectarian tensions.

Shi'ite Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki ordered a halt to its construction. The Iraqi military later said it was modifying the plan to use barbed wire and smaller cement barriers instead.

Bush, Maliki discuss Iraq reconciliation

On the political front, Prime Minister Maliki told US President George W. Bush that he's determined to reconcile warring parties in Iraq.

Mr Maliki "reiterated his determination not only to continue the process, but to work for reconciliation within Iraq," said White House spokesman Tony Snow.

The two leaders, speaking by secure videoconference, also discussed the conference last week at the Egyptian Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh that aimed to build regional support for Iraq, Mr Snow told reporters.

"Then they proceeded to talk about matters of mutual interest, both regional relations and also outreach within Iraq," Snow said amid deep concerns in Washington that Mr Maliki is not doing enough to defuse sectarian tensions.

Mr Snow pointed to Mr Maliki's recent visit to the western city of Ramadi, a hotbed of Sunni insurgency, in an attempt to show his government is starting to master the security situation.