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Iraq Transition

Engineers kidnapped in deadly Iraq ambush

Group says human rights situation worsened in 2005

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BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- Ten Iraqis were killed and two African engineers kidnapped Wednesday when gunmen attacked three vehicles in western Baghdad, police said.

The vehicles belonged to a firm in charge of protecting employees of the Iraqna telecommunications company. Seven bodyguards and three drivers died in the morning ambush, and engineers from Malawi and Madagascar were abducted, police said.

Also Wednesday, gunmen killed three people believed to be relatives of the Iraqi defense minister in a southwestern Baghdad apartment, police said.

Police said the victims were Mohammed al-Battah, the chief of Albu Chlaib tribe; his nephew; and a man named Thamir Jihad.

In a town east of Baquba in Diyala province, a roadside bomb killed three Iraqi police on patrol and one civilian. Four police officers also were wounded.

Rights group: Iraq life worse

The human rights situation in Iraq "deteriorated significantly" in 2005, a major humanitarian watchdog group said Wednesday.

The report from Human Rights Watch cited a rise in daily insurgent attacks, a high number of kidnappings, charges of human rights abuses against Iraqi security officers and civilian casualties caused by Iraqi and U.S.-led coalition troops. (Full story)

The violence has taken a toll on living conditions as well as claiming many lives, the group said.

"Efforts to boost economic reconstruction and the rebuilding of Iraq's devastated infrastructure continue to be hampered by general instability in the country and the level of violence caused by insurgency and counterinsurgency attacks," the report said.

The United States has touted political progress in Iraq, pointing to millions of Iraqis voting in three elections -- for a transitional parliament, a four-year parliament and a constitution.

The United States also has said the number of Iraqi security forces is growing.

U.N.: Violence affecting children

Children are acting as combatants, attacking Iraqi and coalition forces, according to a U.N. report issued Wednesday.

The latest bimonthly report from the U.N. Assistance Mission for Iraq said one attack allegedly involved a boy between 10 and 13 who tried to kill an Iraqi police commander with a suicide bomb in the northern city of Kirkuk.

Also, a 12-year-old boy and a 13-year-old boy each reportedly attacked coalition forces in Falluja and Hawija, respectively, the document said.

The report estimates 20 percent of all civilian deaths in the Iraq conflict are women and children. (Full story)

Iraqi children are "gravely affected" by the ongoing violence, the report said.

The report, which covered from November 1 to December 31, also touched on charges of rights violations throughout the country, violence surrounding the December 15 election and problems involving the Iraqi Interior Ministry.

Other developments

  • The White House on Wednesday called the safe release of an abducted journalist a priority of the U.S. government. Jill Carroll's abductors have demanded the United States release all female Iraqi prisoners within 72 hours. The 28-year-old freelance journalist was kidnapped January 7 in Baghdad while on assignment for The Christian Science Monitor. (Full story)
  • Two people were killed and another seriously wounded Wednesday in the southern city of Basra when a roadside bomb struck a convoy with U.S. civilian security personnel, the U.S. Embassy said.
  • Iraqi soldiers and about 1,000 U.S. troops are conducting counterterrorism operations in Iraq's volatile Anbar province, which has been a hotbed for the insurgency. Operation Wadi Aljundi, or Koa Canyon, began Sunday, the military said in a statement Wednesday. It is aimed at capturing or killing insurgents and locating or destroying their weapons caches in the western Euphrates River valley between the Jubbah and Baghdadi regions and the city of Hit.
  • Iraq's foreign minister has met with Iran's charge d'affaires in Baghdad and demanded Iraqis seized recently on a disputed waterway separating the two countries must be "handed back," the Iraqi Foreign Ministry said Wednesday. Iran reportedly detained nine members of Iraq's coast guard this week in the Shatt al-Arab waterway between southern Iraq and western Iran. The Shatt al-Arab waterway often has been the subject of disputes between the two nations.
  • The January 7 crash of a U.S. UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter, which killed eight soldiers and four civilian contractors, was caused by deteriorating weather, a U.S. military source said Wednesday.
  • U.S. and Iraqi soldiers found 11 bodies of Iraqi security forces in a grave west of Attarmiya on Wednesday, the U.S. military said. The bodies were bound and blindfolded, the military said. Attarmiya is north of Baghdad in Salaheddin province.
  • The abducted sister of Iraqi Interior Minister Bayan Jabr was freed Wednesday, the ministry said. She was kidnapped January 3 when gunmen ambushed her vehicle in Baghdad, killing a bodyguard and wounding another, police said.
  • CNN's Terence Burke, Cal Perry and Mohammed Tawfeeq contributed to this report.

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