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Car Bomb Blast Kills 22 In Iraq

A car bomb exploded Tuesday at an outdoor market in a Shiite area of southwestern Baghdad, killing 22 people and wounding 28, Iraqi police said. The suspected bomber was arrested. It appeared to be the deadliest car bombing against civilians in the capital in weeks.

Lt. Mohammed Khayoun said the car was parked on a street about 30 yards from a police checkpoint in a Shiite part of the mostly Sunni neighborhood of Dora.

The blast left several cars burning and some nearby stores ablaze.

Another police officer, Maj. Gen. Mahdi al-Gharawi, said the bomb was detonated by remote control and an Iraqi suspected of triggering the device had been arrested.

Police 1st Lt. Maitham Abdul-Razaq said the explosion apparently was aimed at a police patrol but missed its target.

The injured were taken to hospital, said Abdul-Razaq, who arrived at the scene shortly after the bomb went off at 4:45 p.m.

Dora is among the most dangerous neighborhoods in Baghdad, where car bombings and roadside bombs have been a daily occurrence since a Sunni-dominated insurgency began in the summer of 2003.

Terrified children screamed while several women wailed: "Our children have died" and "the terrorists, may God punish them."

In other developments:

  • In attacks apart from the suicide bomb Tuesday, at least eight people killed and 32 injured in explosions and shootings, including a spate of bombings targeting liquor stores, beauty parlors and other businesses in Baqouba, probably the work of Islamic extremists.
  • Reporters Without Borders said it was launching a weeklong international campaign for the release of kidnapped American reporter Jill Carroll and two abducted Iraqi journalists, Rim Zeid and Marwan Khazaal. Carroll's kidnappers have set Sunday as the new deadline for meeting their demands, which have not been publicized yet.
  • In eastern Baghdad, Iraqi Migration Minister Suhaila Abed Jaafar escaped injury when a bomb exploded near her convoy, police said Tuesday. Three security guards were wounded.
  • Late Monday, in the northern town of Beiji, several men wearing Iraqi army uniforms kidnapped Fares Abdul-Nabi, an engineer at Iraq's largest oil refinery, police said.
  • Iran is in Iraq, Khalilzad said Monday. He also criticized Iran for demanding that British forces immediately withdraw from the southern Iraqi city of Basra. The demand was made Feb. 17 by Iranian Foreign Minister Manushehr Mottaki while on a visit to Lebanon.
  • Witnesses to the blast said at least four passing cars caught fire and some motorists were killed or seriously injured in the blast. Ambulances hurried to the scene, while motorists helped by ferrying the injured to hospitals.

    The market consisted of shops selling primarily domestic appliances such as refrigerators and cookers. But vendors sell sweets and vegetables from sidewalk stalls. Shattered pieces of fruits and vegetables were scattered on the street, mixed with huge pools of blood.

    Amidst the on-going violence, Britain's foreign secretary told Iraqi leaders Tuesday they must form a national unity government free of domination by a single group, reinforcing U.S. pressure on political leaders to put aside ethnic and sectarian differences in the interest of the nation.

    Foreign Secretary Jack Straw, who arrived in Baghdad late Monday, told reporters that the results of the Dec. 15 parliamentary election showed that the Iraqi people want a "broad government of national unity" to bring together "all the different elements" of Iraqi society.

    "It is a crucial moment today for the people of Iraq," Straw told reporters alongside President Jalal Talabani. "The international community, particularly those of us who played a part in liberating Iraq, obviously have an interest in a prosperous and stable and democratic Iraq."

    Straw said Iraqis want a government where "no party, no ethnic or religious grouping can dominate the government."

    His comments came the day after U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad delivered a blunt message warning that Iraqi leaders risk losing American support unless they establish a national unity government with the police and army out of the hands of religious parties.

    The British foreign secretary's visit was a sign of international concern over the direction of talks among Iraq's Shiite, Sunni Arab and Kurdish political parties as they attempt to put together a government following the December elections.

    Iraqis have until mid-May to form a new government, but U.S. and Iraqi officials warn the process could take longer because of political differences.

    A coalition of Shiite religious parties won 130 of the 275 seats in the new parliament. Although they have agreed in principle to a unity government, Shiite leaders insist their strong showing in the election gives them the right to control key levers of power. A Kurdish alliance won 53 seats and two Sunni Arab blocs together took 55 seats — a major increase over Sunni representation in the outgoing parliament.

    One key issue is control of the ministries of Defense, which runs the army, and Interior, which manages the police. Sunni Arabs have accused the Shiite-run Interior Ministry of widespread human rights abuses, including kidnappings and murder, a charge denied by the ministry.

    In the latest example of sectarian killings, the spokesman for a political party that is part of a Sunni Arab bloc in the new parliament was found dead of multiple gunshot wounds, family and associates said Tuesday. Saad Jarallah of the National Dialogue Council did not return home from work Friday, according to relatives who found his body at the Baghdad morgue Monday.

    After Jarallah's funeral Tuesday, the head of his party said talks were deadlocked.

    "After this incident, there is no way for Iraqis but to protect themselves and confront every aggressor," Khalaf al-Ilyan said. "They should not expect protection from the government."

    The United States, Britain and the other coalition members believe that a unity government is essential to their strategy of handing over security to Iraqi soldiers and police so that international troops can begin to go home this year.

    In other attempts to resolve political divisions, Iraqi leaders plan a second reconciliation meeting in the first week of June, Arab League envoy Mustafa Othman said Tuesday after meeting with Foreign Ministry officials in Baghdad.

    The conference will take place in Iraq under the auspices of the league, which is trying to assure Sunni Arab participation in a political process now dominated by the Shiite majority and large Kurdish minority, considered key to ending the insurgency.