Attackers behead victim in Iraq car ambush

Last updated at 14:44 17 December 2004

Insurgents attacked a car in the northern Iraq city of Mosul today, killing three people who appeared to be foreigners and their Iraqi driver and cutting off the head of one of the victims, witnesses said.

The white, American-made sedan was attacked by insurgents firing assault rifles as it drove through western Mosul, witnesses said. After the attack it was set on fire.

A photographer for Reuters saw four bodies lying on the street close to the blazing vehicle, three of them apparently foreigners.

Witnesses said one of the men appeared to be Turkish and two others looked European. One of them had been beheaded. Two of the men looked to be in their 20s and 30s and were dressed in jeans and windbreaker tops.

A fourth person, apparently an Arab, could be seen lying near the burning wreckage, his body partly consumed by flames.

Witnesses said one of the foreigners was briefly taken hostage by the insurgents.

When he tried to flee they decapitated him, leaving the head lying in a pool of blood near his body on the street.

A crowd quickly gathered around the bodies and the burning wreckage. The identities of the victims was not clear, but the witnesses said they were carrying small automatic weapons. The attackers seized the weapons before setting the car alight.

Passports were also found on the victims, but they were thrown into the burning vehicle, the

witnesses said.

The US military was not immediately reachable for comment.

Mosul, in Iraq's far north near the Turkish border, has experienced a surge in violence since the middle of last month when groups of guerrillas overran a dozen police stations, looted them of weapons and then burned or blew them up.

There have been nearly daily attacks against US and Iraqi security forces in the city since then and U.S. troops have stepped up operations to try to restore order.

Since November 10, when the uprising began, more than 150 bodies have been found abandoned on the streets of the city, many of them members of the Iraqi National Guard and other security forces, but also many civilians.

It is not clear who is behind the killings or what the motive is, though some appear to be due to ethnic tensions between Arabs and Kurds.