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Iraq woman bomber kills army recruits in Tal Afar

Maher al-Thanoon, Reuters

afar28_us_iraq.jpg

September 28, 2005

TAL AFAR, Iraq (Reuters) - A female suicide bomber blew herself up outside an army recruitment center in the northern Iraqi town of Tal Afar on Wednesday, killing herself and at least seven other people and wounding 37, police said.

Many people were waiting to join the army at the recruitment site housed in a former U.S. military base, which had just opened on Wednesday, police said.

"A suicide bomber blew herself up in front of the recruitment center. This center was supposed to be open today for volunteers," Iraqi General Nejam Abdullah said.

The center was opened after a joint Iraqi-U.S. military operation which U.S. forces said had effectively rid Tal Afar of what they called "terrorists and foreign fighters."

The bombing came a day after the U.S. military said it had killed the man it called al Qaeda's number two figure in
Iraq.

Abu Azzam was deputy to the organization's leader, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, Iraq's most wanted man, the U.S. military said, although al Qaeda ridiculed this claim in an internet statement. Abu Azzam was killed on Sunday.

The American military called his death a serious blow to the militant group at the heart of Iraq's insurgency. But suicide bombings have continued since his death.

Wednesday's attack mirrored a suicide bombing of a recruitment center in Baquba, 65 km (40 miles) north of Baghdad, on Tuesday. At least 10 died in that blast, with around 30 wounded.

Iraqi and U.S. troops recently ended a joint military operation in Tal Afar, which they say has long been a stronghold of insurgents. The U.S. military says during the operation it killed or captured over 500 people whom it calls "terrorists or foreign fighters."

They hailed the full-scale assault on the town as a success and said they had brought Tal Afar, which U.S. forces say has been used as a conduit for foreign fighters entering Iraq from
Syria, back under their control.

But previous military operations against insurgency strongholds have not led to peace, and sectarian violence continued on Wednesday.

Police found seven bodies in the town of Taji, north of Baghdad. They had all been shot and the bodies were handcuffed and blindfolded. And police said a group of men in commando uniforms had detained six people on Tuesday in the Huriya district of Baghdad. They were found in a morgue shot dead.

Iraq's Shi'ite- and Kurdish-dominated government is facing an insurgency from the country's Sunni Arab minority, and violence has escalated in the run-up to an October 15 referendum on a contentious new constitution for the post-
Saddam Hussein era.

Sunnis have dominated Iraq for decades, under Saddam and before, but their influence has all but disappeared since his ouster.

They fear the new constitution will formalize their reduced role by giving greater autonomy to the southern Shi'ites, in line with that already enjoyed by northern Kurds -- including control of oil revenues, the mainstay of Iraq's battered economy.

Many Sunnis have vowed to work for the rejection of the new charter at the referendum.

Hundreds have died in bombings, suicide attacks and shootings across Iraq in recent weeks, amid fears that sectarian violence between Sunnis and Shi'ites may plunge Iraq into civil war.

(Additional reporting by Nabil Nouredeen)


:: Article nr. 16214 sent on 28-sep-2005 16:48 ECT

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