2 Truck Bombs Strike Markets In Iraq

Tuesday, March 27th 2007, 7:10 am
By: News On 6

BAGHDAD (AP) _ Two truck bombs simultaneously struck markets in Tal Afar on Tuesday, killing at least 30 people and wounding dozens, police said, in the second attack on the city in four days.

The attacks occurred about 4 p.m. at popular markets in the northern and central parts of the city, 260 miles northwest of Baghdad. At least 30 people were killed and 50 wounded, city and police officials said, although they could not provide a breakdown of the casualty toll.

On Saturday, a man wearing an explosives belt blew himself up outside a pastry shop in the central market area in Tal Afar, killing at least 10 people and wounding three.

Tal Afar, about 90 miles east of the Syrian border, has suffered frequent insurgent attacks despite a March 20, 2006, declaration by President Bush declared that the city was an example of progress made in bringing security to Iraq.

Among the largest were a suicide car bombing on Oct. 7, 2006, that targeted a police checkpoint and killed 14 people, and a Sept. 18, 2006, suicide bombing that killed 20 and wounded 17.

A car bomb also obliterated a tent crowded with mourners for the funeral of a Kurdish official on May 1, 2005, killing 25 people.

In March, President Bush had pointed to Tal Afar as an example of progress made in bringing security to Iraq after a major U.S. offensive swept through the town, 30 miles from the Syrian border

Tal Afar was an insurgent stronghold until U.S. and Iraqi troops drove them out in a September 2006 operation and constructed huge sand barriers around the city to limit access.

Bush cited that operation, in which insurgents melted away into the countryside rather than fight, as an example that gave him ``confidence in our strategy.'' But the city has continued to face attacks.

In other violence, a suicide car bomber killed at least 10 in a market near Ramadi on Tuesday and a mortar attack on a Shiite district area in southern Baghdad killed at least four people, officials said.

The U.S. military said Marine was killed Saturday during combat in Anbar province west of Baghdad but gave no details.

Separately, Kirkuk police 1st. Lt. Marewan Salih said two elderly Chaldean Catholic nuns were stabbed multiple time by two intruders who raided their home Monday night near Kirkuk's Cathedral of the Virgin in Kirkuk. They lived alone and there was no sign of a robbery, Salih said.

Margaret Naoum, 79, was stabbed seven times as she stood in the garden just outside the sisters' home. The attackers then went inside where they found Fawzeiyah Naoum, 85, lying on the sofa, recovering from eye surgery last week. She was stabbed three times.

Chaldean Catholics are an ancient Eastern rite now united with Roman Catholicism. Adherents live mainly in Syria, Turkey, Iran and Iraq and most speak a dialect of Turkish.

In politics, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and President Jalal Talabani were planning to introduce legislation to allow former members of Saddam Hussein's ruling party _ including those in the feared security and paramilitary forces _ resume jobs in the government or receive pensions, Iraqi officials said.

Long demanded by the U.S. to appease Iraq's once-dominant Sunni Arab minority, the measure would set a three-month challenge period after which ex-Baath party loyalists would be immune from legal punishment for their actions during Saddam's reign.

The draft law, which excludes former regime members already charged with or sought for crimes, also would grant state pensions to many Baathists, even if they were denied posts in the government or military.

The commission currently carrying out the government's so-called ``de-Baathfication'' policy, issued a highly critical statement Tuesday, indicating the draft law could face trouble in parliament.

``This draft turns a blind eye to the feelings of millions of the victims of Baath Party and pays no heed to their emotions and rights. This will not lead to reconciliation,'' the statement said.

The reconciliation measure is seen as an effort to short-circuit expected criticism of Iraq's government at an Arab League summit this week. Al-Maliki is said to fear rising support among U.S.-allied Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Jordan for an Iraqi national unity government led by former Prime Minister Ayad Allawi, a favorite of Washington.

In other violence Tuesday suspected Shiite militants broke into a Sunni mosque in Iskandariyah, 30 miles south of Baghdad, about 4 a.m. and planted explosives that damaged the gate and a fence, police said.

The explosion at the Sunni mosque was followed by clashes between Sunni and Shiite militants, and a mortar attack on a nearby Shiite mosque.

It was the fourth day in a row that mosques were targeted and clashes erupted in the religiously mixed area. The violence started on Sunday when suspected Shiite militants attacked a Sunni mosque in Haswa, in apparent retaliation for a suicide truck bombing against a Shiite mosque in the city that killed 11 people on Saturday.

The violence came a day after outgoing U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad expressed cautious optimism about Iraq's progress but warned that Americans were growing impatient with the war. He also said Americans are in ongoing talks with insurgent representatives to try to persuade them to turn against al-Qaida.

``In my view, though difficult challenges lie ahead and there is a long way to go, Iraq is fundamentally headed in the right direction and success is possible,'' he said, pointing to a nearly 25 percent reduction in violence during a six-week-old security crackdown in Baghdad as well as economic progress.