A suicide car bomb and two mortar shells hit Iraq's Interior Ministry during National Police Day celebrations Monday, killing 29 people and injuring 18, officials said. The U.S. ambassador and Iraq's interior and defense ministers were in attendance, but were far from the attacks. Elections officials Monday canceled a news conference where they had hoped to announce more preliminary results or Iraq's Dec. 15. parliamentary elections, saying officials were still auditing the results from about 50 ballot boxes. Results will be released after the four-day Islamic feast of Eid al-Adha, which begins Tuesday, said a member of Iraq's electoral commission.
An Internet statement by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi in the name of his al Qaeda in Iraq terrorist group rebuked Sunni Arabs for taking part in last month's parliamentary elections, saying they had "thrown a rope" to save U.S. policy.
The attack on the Interior Ministry began with a suicide car bomber who exploded his vehicle near an entrance checkpoint. Less than an hour later, two mortar rounds landed about a half-mile from where police were gathered to mark National Police Day.
Most of the dead and injured were policemen, said Ala'a AbidAli, an official at al-Kindi hospital. Several police cars were destroyed, and body parts were scattered on the ground.
U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad, Interior Minister Bayan Jabr and Defense Minister Sadoun al-Dulaimi were among hundreds watching a parade of marching soldiers, police patrols and military equipment, but they were about a half-mile from the mortar explosion. It wasn't clear if the three were still in the area when the mortar hit, and the U.S. Embassy didn't immediately return calls.
In other developments:
There are reports Monday that the French engineer captured Dec. 5 who was freed from captivity on Sunday escaped out of a farmhouse window and ran to coalition troops. Iraqi police said he was thrown out of a car approaching a checkpoint. The U.S. military Monday refused to release any information or what role, if any, U.S. troops had in Bernard Planche's release. The Defense Ministry in Paris said the 52-year-old Planche would return to France on Monday.
The leader of Iraq's main Sunni Arab political group said after meeting President Jalal Talabani on Sunday that significant headway had been made in forming a government of national unity. "Talabani and I have an identical point of view regarding the formation of a national unity government based on consensus," Adnan al-Dulaimi said.
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