Two Iraqi policemen were killed on Thursday and three others wounded when gunmen opened fire on a police checkpoint between the flashpoint towns of Falluja and Ramadi, hotspots of anti-occupation attacks west of Baghdad. 

The attack occurred on the same road where the day before, four Iraqi civilian women were killed when assailants opened fire on the car they were travelling near the US military base at Habbaniyah, 80km west of the capital. They were laundry workers at the base.

Elsewhere, the 23-year-old son of a former senior official from Saddam Hussein's Baath party was killed by an unidentified attacker in the southern city of Basra.

Since the dramatic capture of Hussein in December, attacks against occupation forces have not abated.

More occupation casualties

Two US soldiers were killed and a third wounded during a rocket and mortar barrage late on Wednesday on a military base near Baquba, 55km northeast of Baghdad. US troops returned fire, damaging a civilian's home, according to witnesses.

The latest deaths brought to 505 the number of US troops killed since Washington launched its war against Iraq last March. 

Blood-stained seats of a minibus
where four Iraqi women died

South of the capital, the security chief of Spanish troops in Iraq was shot in the head during a raid against suspected resistance fighters south of Diwaniyah, headquarters of Madrid's military force in Iraq.

Civil Guard commander Gonzalo Perez Garcia was rushed to a US military hospital in Baghdad, where he was reported to be in a critical condition.

Ten Spaniards have died in Iraq since August. An ambush in late November killed seven Spanish intelligence agents.
  
"To their knees"?

  
Despite almost daily casualties among occupation troops, a US commander said his forces have brought resistance fighters "to their knees" following Saddam's arrest near Tikrit on 13 December. 

Maj. Gen. Raymond Odierno, commander of the 4th Infantry Division which is based in Tikrit, said Saddam's arrest "was a major operational and psychological defeat for the enemy."

Odierno said former Baath party loyalists are no longer a major threat and the nature of the anti-occupation attacks could shift, fuelled by what he called a nationalistic motive to get occupation troops to leave.