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At Least 16 Killed In Iraq Explosions

Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki promised Tuesday to show "no mercy" to terrorists and said his long-awaited security plan for Baghdad will include a curfew and a ban on personal weapons.

Highlighting the stakes, President Bush made a surprise visit to Iraq to meet al-Maliki and discuss the nation's next steps. The president was expected to be in Baghdad a little more than five hours.

Security officials said 75,000 Iraqi and multinational forces would be deployed throughout Baghdad on Wednesday, securing roads, launching raids against insurgent hideouts and calling in airstrikes if necessary.

Violence, meanwhile, was unrelenting, with a series of explosions struck the oil-rich northern city of Kirkuk, killing at least 16 people.

Mr. Bush's visit came on the final day of a two-day work session aimed at keeping up the momentum generated by last week's swearing-in of key Iraqi national security officials, and the U.S. airstrike that killed Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the leader of al Qaeda in Iraq.

Maj. Gen. Mahdi al-Gharrawi, the commander of public order forces under the Interior Ministry, said al-Maliki's plan includes securing roads in and out of Baghdad, banning personal weapons and implementing a 9 p.m.-6 a.m. curfew.

In other developments:

  • A survey published Wednesday reports that more than 650,000 Iraqis have fled their homeland for Jordan and Syria since the beginning of 2005. According to the U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants, violence has forced over 40 percent of Iraqi professionals to leave the country.
  • Funeral services were held Tuesday in London for CBS soundman James Brolan, 42, and Monday in Bedford, England, for CBS cameraman Paul Douglas, who was 48. CBS correspondent Kimberly Dozier, seriously wounded by the same bomb that killed Brolan and Douglas in Iraq on Memorial Day, is at Bethesda Naval Hospital in Maryland and is doing a lot better than in the first days after the attack but still has a long road to full recovery.
  • The House passed a $94.5 billion bill Tuesday to pay for continuing U.S. military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, hurricane relief, bird flu preparations and border security at home. The House-Senate compromise bill contains $66 billion for the two wars, bringing the cost of the three-year-old war in Iraq to about $320 billion.
  • The new leader of al Qaeda in Iraq, Abu Hamza al-Muhajer, vowed to defeat "crusaders and Shiites" in Iraq, according to a statement posted on the Web Tuesday. "It's no secret the ferociousness of the battle that is going on between the soldiers of right and the soldiers of wrong, the crusaders, the rejectionists (Shiites) and apostates in Iraq," the statement said.
  • The chief judge in Saddam Hussein's trial said Tuesday's session would be the last day to hear defense witnesses, suggesting he wants to quickly wrap up the proceedings despite defense complaints about being rushed. Abdel-Rahman also scolded the defense team, telling them to stop what he called "political speeches."
  • Iraqi police found eight bodies, including one policeman, in western Baghdad Tuesday.
  • A professor at the Engineering College of Baghdad University was gunned down in a drive-by shooting as he was leaving his house in the upscale Mansour neighborhood Tuesday.

  • Al-Gharrawi told The Associated Press that the plan to be launched at 6 a.m. Wednesday would be the biggest operation of its kind in Baghdad since the U.S. handed over sovereignty to Iraq in June 2004.

    He warned insurgents were likely to step up activity ahead of the security crackdown and as revenge for al-Zarqawi's death. He said the ground forces could call in air cover if needed.

    "We are expecting clashes will erupt in the predominantly Sunni areas," he said. "The terrorists will escalate their violence especially during the first week as revenge for the killing of al-Zarqawi."

    He also said; "Baghdad is divided according to geographical area and we know the al Qaeda leaders in each area."

    Iraqis have complained of random violence and detentions by Iraqi forces, especially the police, which are widely believed to have been infiltrated by so-called sectarian death squads.

    Al-Gharrawi said there were plans for a single uniform to distinguish legitimate forces in the coming days.

    "There will be a special uniform with special badges to be put on the vehicles as a sign that it belongs to our forces," he said, adding the prime minister would decide when to end the crackdown.

    Iraqi army Brig. Jalil Khalaf also said the plan would include more checkpoints and raids against suspected insurgent hideouts.

    "The terrorists cannot face such power," he said.

    Al-Maliki said the plan "will provide security and confront the terrorism and ... enable Iraqis to live in peace in Baghdad."

    "The raids during this plan will be very tough ... because there will be no mercy toward those who show no mercy to our people," he said in a news release distributed Tuesday.

    The attacks in Kirkuk began at 7:45 a.m. when a parked car containing a bomb exploded near a police patrol in the city center, killing 10 people, including two policemen, Brig. Gen. Sarhat Qadir said. Nine people were wounded.

    Some 30 minutes later, guards opened fire on a suspected suicide car bomber trying to pass through a checkpoint at the Kirkuk police directorate. The car exploded, killing five people, including two policemen, and wounding six, Qadir said.

    Another suspected suicide car bomber in Kirkuk Tuesday tried to hit a Kurdish political office in the city about 180 miles north of Baghdad at 8:30 a.m., but guards opened fire on that car, and it exploded, police Col. Taieb Taha said. Three civilians were wounded.

    A suicide car bomber targeted a police patrol south of Kirkuk more than an hour later near an institute for the disabled. The explosion killed the driver of a civilian car nearby and wounded six, Qadir said.

    At least 20 other violent deaths were reported Tuesday, according to police.

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