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Car bombs hit Iraq, at least five dead
( 2003-11-20 18:31) (Reuters)

A suicide car bomber killed at least three people in an attack on Kurdish offices in northern Iraq on Thursday, hours after a U.S.-backed local council was hit by another blast.

A huge explosion rocked an area near the offices of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) in the city of Kirkuk. In the aftermath, black smoke rose from two wrecked cars.

"I am 100 percent sure it was a suicide bombing," said police officer Shwan Majid Karim.

PUK leader Jalal Talabani is head of Iraq's U.S.-appointed Governing Council. He was visiting Turkey on Thursday, as a wave of explosions rocked Istanbul.

Hours earlier, a car bomb blast struck the offices of a U.S.-appointed local council in the Iraqi town of Ramadi, west of Baghdad. Local officials said two people were killed and seven were wounded in what witnesses said was also a suicide attack.

"A car filled with explosives came fast. The driver blew himself up inside the car," a resident living nearby said.

The strike was one of a string of attacks on targets linked to the U.S.-led occupation in the flashpoint town of Ramadi after dark on Wednesday.

The blast in Kirkuk, 250 km (150 miles) north of Baghdad, flattened a wall around the green-painted headquarters of the PUK and shattered windows at a nearby primary school, wounding children with flying glass.

A U.S. officer at the scene confirmed three people were killed plus the suicide bomber, but said the death toll was likely to rise.


The attacks came as U.S. President Bush prepared to face huge protests in London against the U.S. war in Iraq and a day after he issued a staunch defense of his military policy in a speech on the opening day of a state visit to Britain.

In his address, Bush vowed not to leave Iraq despite the rising death toll inflicted by insurgents, saying the alliance had not paid a high price in casualties and liberated millions of people "only to retreat before a band of thugs and assassins."

At the United Nations, United States and Britain are seeking backing for their agenda to hand over power to Iraqis. But Russia on Wednesday criticized U.S. plans for not engaging the United Nations further in the transition process.

The spate of attacks -- there were also unconfirmed reports of explosions in the northern city of Mosul -- were a reminder of how uncertain and dangerous Iraq remains more than seven months after U.S. troops overthrew Saddam Hussein.

Paul Bremer, the U.S.-appointed governor in Iraq, told an Italian newspaper in remarks published on Wednesday that the country was "around 90 percent quiet, normal and at peace."

Ramadi saw a series of attacks late on Wednesday including the killing of a local tribal leader known to be cooperating with the Americans.

U.S. forces are planning to hand over security responsibilities in Ramadi to Iraqi police early next year in a test case for transferring power to Iraqi security forces.

In Kerbala, a Shi'ite city south of Baghdad, a bomb exploded in a primary school on Wednesday afternoon, killing at least two schoolboys and wounding several others, witnesses and a local doctor said. Pools of blood smeared the classroom floor.


Determined to quell what appears to be a deepening anti-American insurgency, U.S. forces dropped bombs and fired missiles at suspected guerrilla hideouts overnight.

Aggressive offensives dubbed Iron Hammer, Ivy Cyclone and Ivy Cyclone Two have been launched in the past two weeks, since the downing of a Black Hawk helicopter near Saddam Hussein's hometown of Tikrit, to try to hit insurgents with full force.

As well as those operations, U.S. forces have stepped up their hunt for one of Saddam's top lieutenants, offering a reward of $10 million on Wednesday for information leading to capture or death of Izzat Ibrahim.

Ibrahim, the most wanted man in Iraq after Saddam and number six on the list of the 55-most-wanted in the country, is accused of being directly behind some attacks on U.S. troops.

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