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Kirkuk Bomb Targets U.S.-Allied Iraqis

Kirkuk Bomb Targets U.S.-Allied Iraqis

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KIRKUK, Iraq (AP) -- A suicide truck bomb exploded at the office of a U.S.-allied Kurdish political party in this northern oil center Thursday, killing four bystanders and wounding about 30 -- including children.

It was the second car-bombing in as many days against Iraqis cooperating with the U.S.-led occupation. Elsewhere, a pro-U.S. politician was assassinated in the southern city of Basra, his party said Thursday.

Jalal Johar, an official of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, said the death toll rose to five Thursday night with the death of one of the injured, a boy about 7 years old.

The powerful explosion at about 10:30 a.m. shattered windows and damaged doors at the two-story yellow and green PUK building and blew out windows of the nearby radio and television station.

Such attacks in the Kurdish-controlled areas are less frequent than in Baghdad or other parts of central and western Iraq dominated by Sunni Muslim Arabs. On Sept. 10, a suicide bomber blew up his vehicle near a U.S. intelligence compound in the northern city of Irbil, killing three people and seriously wounding four American intelligence officers.

"We think that Islamic terrorist groups and remnants of the Saddam (Hussein) regime are behind the attack," security guard Assad Ahmed said of Thursday's blast. "They are coordinating between them."

The PUK is a group that supports American efforts in Iraq. Party chief Jalal Talabani is the current head of the U.S.-installed Iraqi Governing Council.

No group claimed responsibility for the attack, but suspicion fell on Ansar al-Islam, a small, al-Qaida-linked Kurdish extremist group active in the northeastern area of Iraq that borders Iran. Kurdish officials also said other Islamic militants as well as Saddam Hussein loyalists may have been behind the blast.

"We had information that terrorist Islamic extremist movements, remnants of the former regime, Ansar al-Islam and Arab fighters have planned to attack the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan in Kirkuk," Johar said. "Our information shows that there are terrorist Islamic movements in the region other than Ansar al-Islam."

Late Wednesday, a car bomb exploded outside the home of Sheik Amer Ali Suleiman, a tribal leader in Ramadi, about 60 miles west of Baghdad. Hospital workers said Thursday that two people were killed.

Suleiman is a leader of the Duleim tribe, one of the largest Sunni Muslim tribes in Iraq. He is a member of the city council and close to the Americans. Ramadi is part of the "Sunni Triangle," where anti-U.S. attacks are concentrated.

Rebels repeatedly have attacked police stations and Iraqis perceived to be cooperating with the occupation.

In Basra, the Assyrian Democratic Movement said its representative on the municipal council, Sargoun Nanou Murado, was abducted Tuesday on his way to work. His body was found Wednesday, a statement said.

The Assyrian Democratic Movement, which represents Iraq's Assyrian minority, is represented on the 25-seat Governing Council.

The assassination is the second this week of people working with coalition authorities in southern Iraq. In the town of Diwaniyah, gunmen on Tuesday killed the education ministry's director general for that province.

In Baghdad, two gunmen opened fire before dawn Thursday outside the new Jordanian Embassy, killing an Iraqi security guard. The gunmen fled. Later Thursday, Iraqi police and U.S. soldiers sealed off an area nearby where residents said bombs had been found hidden near a communication tower.

The Jordanians moved to the new chancellery after the Aug. 7 car-bombing at their former Embassy building killed at least 19 people, including two children.

In Samara, U.S. troops killed 10 Iraqis after gunmen attacked a coalition convoy Wednesday, Lt. Col. William MacDonald said. Two of the attackers were killed in the initial exchange of fire. Eight others were killed when gunmen attacked U.S. reinforcements, who returned fire with M-1A1 Abrams tanks and an Apache helicopter, MacDonald said. Iraqi witnesses said some of the dead were civilians caught in the crossfire.

Meanwhile, an American general said Wednesday the offensive against suspected insurgent targets in central and northern Iraq was to intimidate the guerrillas by "planting the seeds of doubt in their minds" that they can overcome U.S. power.

Brig. Gen. Martin Dempsey said the offensive was designed to demonstrate the effectiveness of U.S. firepower.

"We felt that the enemy had begun to act with a little more impunity than we want him to have," said Dempsey, whose troops are responsible for security in the capital.

In northern Iraq, U.S. officers said that 161 people "suspected of anti-coalition activities" were detained Wednesday. They included a member of Ansar al-Islam, the military said Thursday.

Some 500 soldiers of the 101st Airborne Division took part in Wednesday's operations, which also led to the discovery of 49 AK-47s, four machine guns and other weapons.

The aggressive tactics followed an upsurge in guerrilla activity and a sharp rise in the number of coalition casualties. About 70 allied soldiers have died in November, already making it the deadliest month since April, when 73 troops died. President Bush declared major combat over May 1.

(Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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