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Over 30 dead in Baghdad bombs after Brussels talks

Reuters | June 23, 2005
By Waleed Ibrahim and Lutfi Abu Oun

Four car bombs shook Baghdad after dawn on Thursday, killing at least 17 people and wounding dozens in the second wave of attacks within hours, police said.

After dark on Wednesday a triple car bombing claimed by Islamist guerrillas hit a mainly Shi'ite district of the city, killing 18, following meetings in Brussels between the new Shi'ite-led government, its U.S. sponsors and other nations.

Police said a suicide car bomber killed three policemen and seven civilians when he drove at their patrol in the central commercial district of Karrada around 7 a.m. (0300 GMT). A second, similar attack killed seven civilians, they added.

Two other cars exploded in the same area, each several minutes apart, one near a Shi'ite mosque. Police and medical sources put the number of wounded at between 23 and 50.

Insurgents, who have killed some 1,200 people, including over 120 U.S. soldiers, since the Shi'ite-led government was formed two months ago draw much of their strength from the Sunni Arab minority that dominated Iraq under Saddam Hussein.

Black smoke and flame darkened the morning sky. A bus lay charred and blood-stained outside Karrada's post office, shop fronts and fruit stalls were devastated and trees were uprooted.

Wednesday night's coordinated series of bombs also wounded 48 in the Shi'ite Shola district of Baghdad, police said.

CRACKDOWN

U.S. and Iraqi commanders had claimed success after a month of raids on insurgent bomb factories and other bases in Baghdad. They warned that Operation Lightning would not prevent all attacks, an acknowledgement borne out in recent days.

The Shola blasts caused widespread damage and casualties on the area's main street, near a restaurant and close to a car repair workshop, police said. A Reuters journalist saw a burned out building and several wrecked cars near the restaurant.

The al Qaeda organisation in Iraq, led by Jordanian Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, spoke of a "Sunni reprisal raid" in an Internet statement and posted film showing fires in at least three places and sounds of blasts and shooting. It was impossible to tell where or when the footage was made.

On Thursday, three further Islamist groups, notably Ansar al-Sunna, laid claim collectively to the bombings. It was not clear if they were disputing the Qaeda claim or whether the statement reflected coordination among all the groups.

An Internet statement in Zarqawi's name later said that a leading Saudi figure in al Qaeda had been killed by U.S. forces at Qaim on the Syrian border. U.S. troops bombarded suspected insurgents there several days ago and said they killed 47.

Abdullah al-Roshoud was on Saudi Arabia's wanted list. The statement said he moved to Iraq six weeks ago to fight.

The U.S. military also said its forces raided and destroyed a house in Baghdad being used by Zarqawi supporters. Residents of the Jamiaa neighbourhood of western Baghdad heard a fierce gunbattle between the occupants of a house and U.S. and Iraqi forces overnight. They said the house burned down.

In Brussels, the United States, European Union and other powers endorsed on Wednesday Iraqi government commitments to draw the Sunni Arab minority into a political process after many failed to vote at January's post-war election.

Iraq's security minister said he was in touch through intermediaries with some anti-American, nationalist rebels, urging them to come forward and negotiate, and to break any links with those bent on holy war or restoring Saddam to power.

"There are nationalists within the insurgency who are against the (U.S.) occupation. We are urging them to show their faces and come to the table," Abdul Karim al-Enzi told Reuters.

One of the highest legal authorities in Sunni Islam, the Egyptian Grand Mufti Ali Gumaa, said that resisting occupation was a religious duty -- but not killing civilians at random.

"Almost daily bloody acts which kill civilians under the slogan of jihad to liberate Iraq are a kind of mockery," he was quoted as saying in Egypt's state newspaper after he met an Iraqi Sunni cleric. "Resisting occupation is an obligatory right for every Muslim but it must be in an organised manner."

In Washington, officials disclosed a CIA report saying the Iraqi insurgency may be training guerrillas who pose a greater threat to the United States than those like Osama bin Laden who learned their trade fighting Soviet troops in Afghanistan.

Japanese troops, whose civil reconstruction mission has caused controversy at home by exposing them to danger, were targeted for the first time outside their base by a roadside bomb that damaged a windscreen on one of their vehicles.

Though scarcely worthy of notice for U.S., Iraqi and other forces operating in the rebellious north and west, the incident near the southern city of Samawa prompted Japan's government spokesman to try to reassure the public at a news conference.

Late on Wednesday, two police were killed in Baghdad and five people were wounded in a bomb attack on a patrol, the Defence Ministry said in a statement.

On Thursday, two policemen were among three people killed in a car bomb attack at Tuz Kurmatu, police said in the town close to the autonomous Kurdish region north of Baghdad.

 

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