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Bomber Kills 14 in Baghdad

Times Staff Writer

A bomber wearing an explosives-laden belt blew himself up Monday inside a bus packed with passengers heading from one Shiite Muslim neighborhood of the capital to another, killing at least 14 civilians and injuring more than eight others.

An American soldier also was killed Monday when his vehicle struck a roadside bomb during a combat patrol southeast of Karbala, the U.S. military said. A roadside bomb on a highway in a volatile area near the contested city of Kirkuk killed a high-ranking Iraqi police official and two other officers.

Insurgent violence killed at least 11 other Iraqis on Monday around the country.

Witnesses at the scene of the suicide bus bombing in the northern Baghdad neighborhood of Kadhimiya described horrific scenes of passengers fleeing the inferno with their clothing on fire. Police sealed off the area as emergency vehicles rushed victims to a nearby hospital.

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Hours after the blast, the smell of burned flesh hung in the air near the charred remains of the bus.

“I saw a woman and her child on fire trying to get out of the bus,” said Bassem Khifajey, owner of an automobile spare parts lot near where the bus was loading passengers headed to Sadr City, a Shiite neighborhood in northeastern Baghdad.

Sunni Muslim Arab insurgents have waged a campaign of assassinations and bombings against the Shiite- and Kurdish-led Iraqi government and U.S. forces. Iraqi leaders elected in December have been struggling to form a broad-based government that they hope will help reduce the violence.

U.S. officials have been actively pushing the dominant Shiite political bloc to draw as many political groups into the government as possible and hand control of key ministries to professionals rather than controversial political appointees with ties to Shiite militias.

But talks over the new government have hit snags, with politicians refusing to budge on key issues such as whether to create a federal system of semiautonomous regions and to block former members of ousted President Saddam Hussein’s Baath Party from holding official posts.

Iraqi officials also are wrangling over security policy and who will fill the leadership posts in the ministries of defense and interior. On Monday, three bodies were discovered around Baghdad, the latest in a series of mysterious killings fitting the pattern of those widely blamed on Shiites tied to the Interior Ministry forces.

The Iraqi Islamic Party, a prominent Sunni party, demanded in a statement released Monday that an investigation launched into recent killings be “real and deter criminals, not a propaganda campaign to contain the legitimate popular anger at the official security apparatuses.”

In Mosul, meanwhile, a bomb killed five Iraqi police officers and injured 20 other people at a popular restaurant. A bombing in Fallouja, aimed at a convoy of police vehicles, killed two officers.

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A bombing attack early Monday on a group of laborers in Baghdad killed four people and injured 14 others, Associated Press reported. The toll had earlier been reported as 19 injured.

Times special correspondents in Mosul and Kirkuk contributed to this report.


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