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Italian Troops End Iraq Mission

September 22, 2006|From Times Wire Services

NASIRIYA, Iraq — Italy, the last major Western European ally of the United States and Britain in Iraq, ended its mission Thursday, handing the province under its control over to Iraqi troops.

One Italian soldier died in a road accident during a patrol just hours before the transfer of control over Dhi Qar province, bringing a bitter end to a mission deeply unpopular in Italy. Its 1,600 troops will be home within eight weeks.

The transfer of authority came on a day that 38 bodies were found in the streets of Baghdad, casualties that have become almost routine in the capital in the last few weeks.

Gunmen killed six policemen in Baghdad and three more in Baqubah. Rockets struck a Baghdad house, killing five, and at least three bombs in the capital killed at least seven. The U.S. military reported three soldiers killed.

Iraq's Defense Ministry on Thursday announced a twist on the violence, saying that insurgents are using unwitting kidnap victims as suicide bombers -- seizing them, booby-trapping their cars without their knowledge, then releasing them and blowing up the vehicles by remote control when they reach a certain location.

A U.S. official who spoke on condition of anonymity said he was aware of such incidents but was unable to provide further details.

It was unclear from the Defense Ministry's statement whether the insurgents are using kidnap victims because they are having trouble finding recruits for suicide missions.

U.S. officials have said insurgents often tape or handcuff a suicide driver's hands to a car, or bind his foot to the accelerator pedal, to ensure that he does not back out at the last minute.

Evidence of such practices has been found at blast sites.

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