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Violence Kills at Least 25 Around Iraq

October 7, 2006

BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) _ A suicide bomber rammed a police checkpoint in northern Iraq with an explosives-laden vehicle Saturday, killing 14 people, including some who died when their homes collapsed in the blast.

The suicide bombing in Tal Afar _ a city cited by President Bush earlier this year as an example of improving security in Iraq _ was the deadliest attack on a day when more than two dozen people died in violence around the country.

Four policemen and 10 civilians were killed when the vehicle detonated after speeding into the checkpoint, police Brig. Sabah al-Maamari said. Some of the victims died when parts of nearby homes collapsed from the force of the blast in the city about 30 miles from the Syrian border.

Separately, more victims of Iraq’s Shiite-Sunni violence were found, with seven bullet-riddled bodies in Baghdad, where U.S. and Iraqi troops have been trying for more than a month to put down sectarian killings in intensified neighborhood-by-neighborhood sweeps.

One American soldier with the 3rd Brigade, 82nd Airborne Division, died Friday near Beiji, 155 miles north of Baghdad, the military said Saturday. No other details were given.

In the city of Mosul, gunmen killed a woman who was walking with her 5-year-old son, Mosul police Col. Abdel-Karim al-Jubouri said. The boy was not harmed, he said.

The U.S. military had predicted a spike in violence with the onset of Ramadan two weeks ago _ something that the chief U.S. military spokesman Maj. Gen. William B. Caldwell said had been borne out.

``Unfortunately, as expected, attacks have steadily increased in Baghdad during these past weeks,″ he said Wednesday, adding that the number of car bombs found and cleared were at an all-time high.

A roadside bomb hit a fuel tanker being escorted by American troops early in the morning near Samarra, 60 miles north of Baghdad, sending plumes of black smoke into the air. There were no reports of casualties, the U.S. command said.

Two bodies were fished out of the Tigris River in downtown Baghdad on Saturday, said police Lt. Bilal Ali Majid. Both had their hands and legs bound and showed signs of torture _ hallmarks of the sectarian death squads that roam the capital.

Later in the southeastern suburbs of the capital, the bodies of five more people who had been shot and handcuffed were discovered, police Cap. Mahir Hamad Mousa said.

Two workers at a Shiite-run bakery in Baghdad’s Mansour district were killed by unknown gunmen in the early afternoon, said police Lt. Maitham Abdel Razzaq. The gunmen got out of their car, sprayed the bakery with bullets _ injuring a third person _ and then drove away, he said.

The United States has put increasing pressure on the government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to take action to stop sectarian violence amid deep divisions within his Cabinet. Sunnis complain al-Maliki is hesitant to take tough action against Shiite militias because many of them are linked to parties he relies on.

In a joint statement, Zalmay Khalilzad, the U.S. ambassador to Iraq and Gen. George W. Casey, the top American military commander in the country, pledged to help the government find those behind Thursday’s killing of a Kurdish lawmaker.

Mohammed Ridha Mahmoud and his driver were seized and killed after they left the northeast Baghdad offices of a government agency that oversees Sunni mosques. A Sunni Kurdish party blamed the attack on Shiite militias.

``The terrorists who carried out this attack are the enemies of the Iraqi people, desperate to derail the progress Iraq is making toward freedom and prosperity,″ Casey and Khalilzad said in a joint statement.

``Although they killed Mr. Mahmoud, they cannot kill the vision he shared with the Iraqi people of a stable, secure, and unified Iraq,″ they said.

Elsewhere around the country, in a two morning raids in the province of Diyala, an increasingly violent region north of Baghdad, Iraqi forces killed two al-Qaida suspects and captured 40 others, said Brig. Qassim al-Mussawi, spokesman for the General Command of the Armed Forces _ the prime minister’s military office.

Five insurgents were captured in a joint U.S-Iraqi operation in Mahaweel, 35 miles south of Baghdad, said police Capt. Muthana Khalid.

Meanwhile, the U.S. command said it had captured 28 suspected terrorists in a series of nine raids early Tuesday in the Jisr Diyala neighborhood of southeastern Baghdad.

No names were released, but the military said one of three ``high-value″ suspects captured was alleged to be responsible for murders and other criminal activities, and attacks on U.S. and Iraqi forces.

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