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Blast Hits Iraq Education Ministry

A car bomb exploded Tuesday near the Ministry of Education in a busy Baghdad commercial area, killing at least eight people and wounding 29 others, officials said. In the north, another car bomb killed at least four people in the city of Mosul.

Meanwhile, kidnappers released two Iraqi guards who were abducted along with an American, a Nepalese, a Filipino and an Iraqi from the Baghdad compound of a Saudi company on Monday, police and a U.S. Embassy spokesman said.

In Tuesday's bombing, a car plowed into concrete blast walls and protective barriers surrounding the Education Ministry and exploded in Baghdad's northern Azamiyah district.

Al-Nu'man Hospital officials said there were six people killed, including one woman. Ten others were wounded, including a two-year old girl

Officials at a second hospital, Baghdad Medical City Hospital, reported two more deaths and 19 injured. Dr. Ra'ed Mubarak said he was unsure whether some of the wounded were transferred from other hospitals.

In other developments:

  • Saboteurs blew up an oil pipeline and attacked an oil well in northern Iraq Tuesday, which is expected to stop oil exports for the next 10 days, Iraqi oil officials said. Late Tuesday night, a huge explosion rocked the compound of Ghabaza oil field, 22 miles southwest of Kirkuk, said an official with the state-run Northern Oil Co. The oil valves were blown up and huge fire engulfed the area, the source added.
  • On Tuesday, the U.S. military reported overnight airstrikes in Fallujah that destroyed a known enemy cache site on the southeast side of the city. Hospital officials in Fallujah said one person was killed and six others were wounded during clashes. It was unclear whether they were casualties of air or ground attacks.
  • A U.S. military convoy was hit by a motorcycle bomber Tuesday in Ramadi, though it was unclear whether there were any casualties, according to police. The U.S. military had no immediate comment. Heavy clashes between Iraqi insurgents and U.S. forces have continued for days in Ramadi, one of several Sunni Muslim cities used by rebels have used as a base. Ramadi is 70 miles west of Baghdad.
  • A suicide car bomber detonated a blast Monday night at a checkpoint manned by Iraqi National Guards and U.S. soldiers in the town of Haditha, about 75 miles west of Ramadi, according to a source with the National Guard. There was no information on any casualties. The U.S. military also had no immediate response to this incident.

    In Mosul, 225 miles northwest of Baghdad, a car bomb targeting a military convoy carrying an Iraqi general exploded, killing four civilians and wounding at least seven soldiers, according to U.S. and Iraqi officials.

    Iraqi police said the attack was an assassination attempt on Gen. Rashid Feleih, commander of a special task force in the Iraqi army. He was unhurt in the blast, police said.

    Feleih had arrived in the city several days ago to assist Iraqi police and was apparently on his way to a press conference to talk about the role of the task force, according to police and media reports.

    The blasts came a day after a dramatic kidnapping in the capital -- the latest in the wave of abductions of foreigners.

    Gunmen stormed the compound of a Saudi company in the upscale Mansour district, battling with guards in a fight that killed one attacker and one guard. The gunmen then made off with six hostages -- an American, a Filipino, a Nepalese and three Iraqis.

    Two of the Iraqis — guards from the compound — were left blindfolded and handcuffed in Baghdad's Hay al-Amil area late Monday, said a police officer involved with the investigation on condition of anonymity.

    The men had been beaten, and the kidnappers had told them, "Don't work with them (foreigners) again or else we'll kill you," according to the officer. He said he believed the two were freed because they were from the Fallujah area.

    The U.S. Embassy confirmed that an American was abducted but has not identified him. The embassy also identified the nationalities of the others still in custody.

    The kidnapped Filipino is believed to be an accountant, sources speaking on condition of anonymity said Tuesday. They said Filipino diplomats in Baghdad were trying to verify reports that initially identified the man as Roberto Torrongoy.

    The offices where the hostages were abducted is about 500 yards from the home of two Americans and a Briton kidnapped by militants in September. All three were later killed.

    The captives are believed to work for the Saudi Arabian Trading and Construction Company, or Satco, which caters food to the Iraqi army and others.

    Neighbors in the area described seeing several cars filled with gunmen, some blocking the road to the house.

    "We heard gunfire. I went outside to see what's going on when a man pointed a machine gun at me and said: 'Get in or else, I'll shoot at you,"' said Haidar Karar, who lives in the neighborhood.

    From his house, Karar saw "at least 20 attackers, some masked and some not." He said some were wearing traditional Arab robes and all were carrying automatic weapons.

    On Tuesday, the U.S. military command denied media reports that an American soldier had been abducted in the city of Samarra. The military said all troops in the area were accounted for.

    Twelve Americans have been kidnapped or are missing in Iraq. At least three of them have been killed — all beheaded in abductions claimed by an al Qaeda-linked group led by Jordanian militant Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.

    More than 160 foreigners have been abducted this year by militants with political demands or by criminals seeking ransom. At least 33 captives have been killed.

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