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Insurgents target governor in Mosul

Anti-insurgency efforts stepped up in northern city

A masked insurgent stands on a street in Mosul.
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BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- Insurgents fired a mortar round Thursday into the office of Nineveh's provincial governor as American and Iraqi forces attempted to restore order in Mosul, the U.S. military said.

The U.S. military and Iraqi security forces have been stepping up their fight against the resistance in the northern Iraqi city. That's in response to an insurgent offensive apparently timed to divert resources and attention from the major U.S.-led operation launched in Falluja last week. (Full story)

The provincial governor, Duraid Kashmoula, told the military he is OK, but three of his bodyguards were wounded. However, the military could not confirm if he was in the office at the time of the attack. The building itself suffered minor damage.

Mosul -- a sprawling, diverse northern metropolis said to be populated by 1.7 million -- is the seat of the Nineveh provincial government. (Map)

Kashmoula last week asked the U.S. forces to help fight the militants, who launched bold attacks against police stations and government buildings and briefly occupied some police stations.

Over the past week, the insurgency has left a mark. Fifty police cars and 1,000 police uniforms have been stolen, authorities said. Also, four-fifths of the 4,000-strong police force have quit their posts; only 800 policemen are left. Security has been replenished by the Iraqi national guard and U.S. forces, but the police force is in need of rebuilding.

Also, it is thought that insurgent sympathizers have infiltrated the police force and have been passing along sensitive information.

The military has said that conditions reverted to relative calm by Wednesday after violence escalated last week. Most -- although not all -- police stations are now under the control of the multinational and Iraqi forces, the U.S. military said.

A CNN freelancer in the city earlier reported seeing insurgents with guns in three neighborhoods in northwestern Mosul. Their presence on the streets also was confirmed by Khasro Goran, the Nineveh deputy governor.

The freelancer reported some insurgent checkpoints have been established on different roads, and she said she has seen insurgents carrying rocket-propelled grenades and machine guns. At one of these checkpoints, she saw about 50 people.

The fighting in Mosul has resulted in scores of casualties. From November 10-17, 29 people have been killed and 82 wounded in Mosul, said an Iraqi Ministry of Health official.

The official said one of those killed was a child and the others were men. One of the wounded was a child, five were women and the rest were men. The health official said most are civilians and others are thought to be insurgents.

The multinational forces have been targeting control of bridges in the city in hopes of stopping the movement of insurgents.

The U.S.-led forces said tension in the city is subsiding, with no remaining "no-go areas." But there are some places where insurgents shoot regularly at U.S. and Iraqi forces, the military said.

Iraqi officials Thursday announced the arrest of some imams, or prayer leaders, from mosques in Mosul, a new tactic targeting an influential sector of society. The forces believe some of the police quit their posts because of intimidation, with imams telling them they shouldn't back the U.S.-led forces.

The commanders noted that during the first Falluja offensive in April this year there was an upsurge of violence in Mosul.

What surprised commanders about the recent upsurge in insurgent violence is that for first time, instead of shooting and running away, insurgents stood their ground in last week's police station assaults.

Mohammed Tawfeeq, Cal Perry, Kevin Flower and David Albritton contributed to this report.

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