18 killed in attacks across Iraq as Iranian minister visits

Associated Press

Bombs struck a cafe in the capital and remote communities in northern Iraq on Saturday, killing at least 18 people, as the visiting Iranian foreign minister warned that the country's instability affected the whole region.

The blasts came 10 days after suicide truck bombers devastated the Foreign and Finance ministries in Baghdad, killing about 100 people and dealing a blow to confidence in the Iraqi government's ability to protect people as U.S. forces scale back their presence.

Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki called on neighboring countries to play a positive role in helping stabilize Iraq. His comments took on added significance amid a diplomatic dispute between Iraq and Syria over demands that Damascus extradite suspected Saddam Hussein loyalists blamed for the Baghdad ministry bombings.

"The lack of stability and security in Iraq will definitely affect the region," Mottaki said at a news conference with his Iraqi counterpart, Hoshyar Zebari. "All of Iraq's neighbors should work seriously and help Iraq in providing security and stability."

The Iraqi government has blamed an alliance of the insurgent group Al Qaeda in Iraq and Hussein loyalists it says are based in Syria for the Aug. 19 bombings and demanded that Damascus hand over two suspected plotters, raising tensions between the two countries.

Iraqi forces have stepped up security in Baghdad and other cities since the truck bombings.

But attackers were still able to detonate an explosives- laden motorcycle near a cafe in an eastern section of the capital at about 8 p.m. on Saturday, killing at least two civilians and wounding 12, according to police and hospital officials.

Saturday's deadliest attack was a suicide truck bombing targeting a small police station in the Sunni Arab village of Hamad in northern Iraq. At least 12 people were killed, including six policemen, and 15 others were hurt, Iraqi officials said.

Such remote villages often depend on a small security force for protection. Bombers have been exploiting that vulnerability in villages surrounding the northern city of Mosul, in particular. They have mainly targeted ethnic minorities.

In Hamad, police attempted to stop the truck, opening fire and forcing the attacker to change direction and slam into a concrete barrier near a market, the officials said.

A second bombing in northern Iraq targeted a market in the city of Sinjar, near the Syrian border. An explosives-laden truck blew up, killing at least four people and wounding 23 others, police said.

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