More than 20 killed in new Baghdad violence

An insurgent blew up his car in a Baghdad square, killing four people in the first significant suicide bombing in the capital in weeks. More than 20 Iraqis died in a swell of violence, including a bomb that killed a police colonel and four children.

Still, with the toll among US service members in the Iraq war approaching 2 000 dead, the US military said it has hampered insurgents’ ability to unleash more devastating suicide bombings with a series of offensives in western towns that disrupted militant operations.

“We have interrupted the flow of the suicide missions into the large urban areas. Certainly, we have had success denying free movement of car bombs into Baghdad,” Brigadier General Donald Alston told reporters in the capital.

“It is also a function of Iraqi citizens who have come forward and with their support we have found car bomb factories.
We have found a series of large weapon caches,” he said.

In Sunday’s attack, the bomber plowed his explosives-laden car into two police vehicles in downtown Tahrir Square at 11.30am, killing two police officers and two civilians. US troops rushing to the scene in Humvees found bystanders tending to 11 wounded.

In the past, Baghdad has been heavily battered by deadly suicide attacks, with a string of them killing nearly 700 people from April 1 to early September.

But amid the intensified security clampdown, suicide car bombings have been greatly reduced in recent weeks across the country, and those that have occurred have caused fewer casualties.

Sunday’s attack was the deadliest suicide attack in the capital since a September 26 attack killed seven people near the Oil Ministry.

Roadside bombs hit three separate US convoys in Baghdad on Sunday morning, wounding a total of five soldiers, a military spokesperson, US Sergeant 1st Class David Abrams, said.

The violence came after a week in which 23 US soldiers were reported killed, raising to 1 996 the number of military personnel who have died since the war began in March 2003, according to an Associated Press count.

A suicide car bomber rammed into a US military convoy on Sunday morning in the northern oil-rich city of Kirkuk, killing two civilians and wounding 13.

Attacks also flared in north-central Iraq. The slaying of the police colonel and the four children came in Tikrit, 130km north of Baghdad.

Lieutenant Colonel Haitham Akram had just left his home and was getting into his car with his two sons when a bomb nearby went off, killing the three of them, police Lieutenant Qusay Mushaal said. The explosion set a nearby car ablaze, killing two young girls, aged seven and nine.

Around the city of Baqouba, east of Tikrit, a string of drive-by shootings killed a police lieutenant, three civilians and a Shi’ite student-cleric.

Gunmen also killed three Iraqis driving a water truck to an Iraqi army base on a highway near Taji, north of Baghdad, police Lieutenant Abdul-Razaq al-Hayali said.

In Baghdad, gunmen opened fire on a car carrying Shi’ite workers, killing one and wounding two. Insurgents also killed a leader of a Shi’ite anti-Saddam group and his driver in their car on a highway outside the southern city of Amarah, police said.

Also on Sunday, investigative judges took testimony from the first witness in the mass murder trial of Saddam Hussein and seven members of his former Baathist regime over the 1982 massacre of 148 Shi’ites in the town of Dujail.

The judges went to a military hospital to take the deposition from Wadah Ismail al-Sheik, a cancer patient who was director of the investigation department at Saddam’s feared Mukhabarat intelligence agency at the time of the Dujail massacre. Al-Sheik is too sick to appear in court, and officials did not want to wait until the trial resumes on November 28 to get his testimony.

The US military on Sunday confirmed that four American contract workers were killed and two wounded in Iraq last month when their convoy got lost.

The attack occurred on September 20 when the convoy, which included US military guards riding in Humvees, made a wrong turn into the mostly Sunni Arab town of Duluiyah, 70km north of Baghdad. Insurgents opened fire with rifles and rocket-propelled grenades, Major Richard Goldenberg, a spokesperson for Task Force

Liberty in north-central Iraq, told The Associated Press.

Alerted of the attack, a quick reaction team went to the scene, finding all four Americans still in their vehicles with bullet wounds, one of them burned from a fire in the vehicle. One was still alive but died later of his wounds, the military said. Two

others were wounded and survived the attack.

Three of the dead worked for Houston-based Halliburton’s KBR subsidiary, the biggest US military contractor in Iraq. It was not clear who the fourth slain American worked for. - Sapa-AP

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