Four car bombings in Iraq leave 21 dead
An emboldened Iraqi insurgency staged carefully coordinated dual bombings in Saddam Hussein's hometown and a Shiite neighborhood of the capital Sunday, killing at least 21 people.
Lawmakers loyal to the new prime minister said he was ready to announce a Cabinet that would exclude his interim predecessor, Ayad Allawi.
Prime Minister-designate Ibrahim al-Jaafari had decided, some members of his political bloc said, to shun further attempts to include members of the party headed by Allawi, the secular Shiite politician who had served as prime minister as the country prepared for elections Jan. 30.
"I heard from the media, and some of the other assembly members told me about it," lawmaker Hussein Shaalan told the Associated Press late Sunday. But he said the party would continue to support the government even if excluded from the Cabinet.
Al-Jaafari's list could be put to parliament as early as Monday, some of his bloc said. Others indicated the Cabinet announcement would be made Tuesday. Many such forecasts have proven wrong so far.
Many Shiites have long resented the secular Allawi, accusing his outgoing administration of having included former members of Saddam Hussein's Baath Party, which brutally repressed the majority Shiites and Kurds.
There had been intense pressure to end the political bickering after a marked recent uptick in insurgent violence that many in Iraq blamed on the continuing political turmoil nearly three months after the country's historic Jan. 30 elections, the first democratic balloting in a half century.
Militant violence over the weekend took at least 38 lives, including those of three Americans.
Also Sunday, the U.S. military said it had detained four more suspects in the downing of a civilian Mi-8 helicopter on Thursday. All 11 passengers and crew were killed, including a survivor gunned down by insurgents. Ten suspects have been apprehended in all, the military said.
A vehicle packed with explosives was driven into a crowd gathered in front of a popular ice cream shop in Baghdad's western al-Shoulah neighborhood Sunday, police Maj. Mousa Abdul Karim said. Minutes later, as police and residents rushed to help the victims, a second suicide car bomber plowed into the crowd. At least 15 people were killed and 40 wounded.
Shattered glass, pools of blood, and pieces of flesh littered the scene.
Members of Iraq's Shiite majority have become a frequent target of Sunni-led insurgents. On Friday, a car bomb ripped through a crowded Shiite mosque in eastern Baghdad during midday prayers, killing 12 people and wounding 22.
In Saddam's hometown of Tikrit on Sunday, two remotely detonated car bombs exploded in quick succession outside a police academy, killing at least six Iraqis and wounding 33, police and a hospital official said. The blasts occurred as recruits were about to leave the station and travel to Jordan for a training, said police Lt. Shalan Allawi.
Insurgents also attacked U.S. forces. A roadside bomb hit one convoy in eastern Baghdad, killing one American soldier and wounding two, the U.S. military said. Iraqi police said two civilians also were wounded in the attack.
An American sailor was killed Saturday when the Marine convoy he was traveling with was hit by a roadside bomb in Fallujah, 40 miles west of Baghdad, the military said.
At least 1,568 members of the U.S. military have died since the beginning of the Iraq war in March 2003, according to an Associated Press count.
Al-Qaida in Iraq, the country's most feared militant group, claimed responsibility for the Tikrit and eastern Baghdad attacks in statements posted on militant Web sites.
The group also claimed responsibility for a roadside bomb targeting a U.S. patrol near the Abu Ghraib prison, west of Baghdad. The U.S. military said no one was hurt in that attack.
South of the capital, three insurgents were killed Sunday as the roadside bomb they were trying to plant in the town of Mahawil exploded, said police in nearby Hillah.
In Pakistan, a government spokesman said a Pakistan embassy official who was kidnapped in Iraq two weeks ago was freed Sunday. Malik Mohammed Javed was abducted April 9 after he left his residence in Baghdad to attend prayers at a mosque. The Pakistani government said after his abduction he was in the custody of a previously unknown Islamic militant group, Omar bin al-Khattab that had demanded a ransom for Javed's release.