Iraq Points Finger In Triple Blast

People look at the damage caused by a powerful roadside bomb that exploded on Monday among civilians in Basra, Iraq, Tuesday, Nov.1, 2005. On Tuesday, police raised the casualty figures to 20 dead and 71 wounded by the explosion, which occurred along a bustling street packed with shops and restaurants as people were enjoying an evening out after the daily Ramadan fast. AP

Iraq's government Tuesday blamed a Syria-based Moroccan for the triple car bomb attack that killed at least 60 people last month north of Baghdad, as the country's defense minister called on Arab governments to demand that Syria curb the movement of foreign fighters into this country.

Also Tuesday, the U.S. military said an American soldier was killed by a roadside bomb in central Iraq the day before, raising to at least 93 the number of U.S. service members who died in October, the fourth deadliest month for the troops in the Iraq war.

In a statement, the Iraqi government identified the Moroccan as Muhsen Khayber, also known as Abdul-Majid al-Libi and Abdul-Rahim, who is also sought in his homeland for the terror bombings in Casablanca in May 2003.

The statement alleged that Khayber masterminded the Sept. 29 attack in which three vehicles exploded almost simultaneously in Balad, a mainly Shiite market town 50 miles north of Baghdad.

At least 60 people were killed and about 70 were injured. Iraqi officials offered an unspecified reward for information leading to Khayber's arrest.

Iraqi officials did not cite any evidence to link Khayber to the Balad attacks but have long maintained that foreign Islamic extremists play a major role in the wave of suicide bombings that have killed hundreds of Iraqis in recent months.

In other developments:

  • At a Pentagon briefing Tuesday, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Peter Pace, told reporters that the Department of Defense is not surprised with the increase in violence, pointing to the recent vote on the new Iraqi constitution. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld told reporters that as the December election nears, more violence is expected and perhaps more troops will be brought into the area to help with security.

  • At least four roadside bombs exploded Tuesday — three in Baghdad and one south of the capital — killing two Iraqis and wounding four others. Drive-by shootings killed two police officers and an Iraqi physician in the capital, officials said.

  • In Washington, Democrats forced the Republican-controlled Senate into an unusual closed session Tuesday, demanding answers about intelligence that led to the Iraq war. Republicans derided the move as a political stunt. In a speech on the Senate floor, Democratic leader Harry Reid said the American people and U.S. troops deserved to know the details of how the United States became engaged in the war, particularly in light of the indictment of I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, Vice President Dick Cheney's chief of staff.

  • A U.S. military investigating officer on Tuesday recommended a court-martial for a National Guard soldier charged with killing two of his superiors in Iraq and raised the possibility of a death sentence. Col. Patrick Reinert said he found "reasonable cause" to believe that Staff Sgt. Alberto B. Martinez of Troy, N.Y., used an anti-personnel mine and three grenades to kill a captain and a lieutenant in a "personal vendetta."

  • On Tuesday, 500 detainees were released from Abu Ghraib, the notorious U.S.-run prison on the outskirts of Baghdad, to mark Eid al-Fitr, the Muslim religious holiday that concludes the Ramadan holy month of fasting.

  • Elsewhere, an Internet message posted Tuesday in the name of al Qaeda in Iraq said two kidnapped Moroccans were to stand trial in an Islamic court. On Oct. 25, the group claimed to have abducted the two, identified by the Moroccan government as Abdelkrim el Mouhafidi and Abderrahim Boualam, employees of its Baghdad embassy who were kidnapped while driving back from Jordan. The authenticity of the statement could not be verified.

  • Suspected insurgents opened fire on six Iraqi contractors after they left the U.S. air base in Taji where they were working about 12 miles north of Baghdad, killing four of them and seriously wounding the other two, said police Maj. Felah al-Mohammedawi. Militants often threaten to kill any Iraqi civilians who work with U.S. or Iraqi forces.

  • In Kirkuk, 180 miles north of Baghdad, a suicide attacker detonated explosives hidden beneath his clothes while lunging at a police patrol stuck in traffic, wounding the city's police commander and his driver, police said.

    • Joel Roberts

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