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Deadly Car Bomb Rocks Iraqi Market

Police say a car bomb has exploded in a popular outdoor market in northern Iraq, killing at least 12 people and injuring 30.

A local police official says a parked car rigged with explosives struck late afternoon shoppers in Tal Afar, about 260 miles northwest of Baghdad.

Wednesday's bombing was the latest sign of instability around the northern city of Mosul, which is considered the last major urban stronghold for al Qaeda in Iraq insurgents. Earlier, two people died in a car bombing in the city.

In other developments:

  • The U.S. Defense Department's top military officer says he expects to be able to recommend further troop reductions in Iraq later this year. Adm. Mike Mullen says that on his recent trip to Iraq, he found conditions had improved more than he expected. The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff says he is not ready to say that the improvement is irreversible. But he says that if the trend toward improvement continues, he expects to be able to recommend to President George W. Bush and Defense Secretary Robert Gates that there can be a further withdrawal of American forces.
  • Four Democratic senators, including Sen. Carl Levin, on Wednesday called on the State Department's inspector general to investigate whether agency employees encouraged lucrative oil deals between Iraq and several Western companies. "We are concerned that U.S. policy regarding these oil contracts has not been clearly defined, communicated, or consistently implemented by the Iraqi government, the Kurdistan Regional Government and international oil companies seeking to do business in Iraq," the lawmakers wrote in a letter to Harold Geisel, the State Department's acting inspector general.
  • American-led forces handed over control of a province south of Baghdad to the Iraqi government on Wednesday, reflecting the improvement in security across the country. While violence continued across the country, with two civilians dying in a car bomb in the northern city of Mosul and 28 people killed in a suicide attack a day earlier, the handover of Qadisiyah marked one more success for Iraq's increasingly assertive government.

    However, bloodshed still comes with sobering frequency.

    Two civilians died in a car bombing in the northern city of Mosul on Wednesday, a day after suicide bombers killed at least 28 people northeast of Baghdad a day earlier.

    The mostly Shiite region of Qadisiyah was the 10th of 18 provinces to fall under Iraqi authority after U.S. and Polish forces relinquished control in a ceremony.

    "This is further evidence of our goal to have security control in the whole of Iraq by the end of 2008," said Mouwafak al-Rubaie, Iraq's national security adviser.

    In a statement, U.S. Ambassador Ryan C. Crocker and Gen. David H. Petraeus, commander of U.S. forces in Iraq, said Iraqi security forces there had been operating "independently" for the last two months.

    "We will assist as requested," they said. The statement said the Iraqi provincial and military leadership would have to create long-term security that can lead to economic development.

    Qadisiyah had been the scene of fighting among Shiite factions, and U.S. and Iraqi troops launched a big operation there last year. The handover was delayed from last month.

    U.S. forces also have pushed back the handover of Anbar province, west of Baghdad, where occasional bombings and combat occur despite a sharp decline in violence. Anbar had been a stronghold of al Qaeda in Iraq and other extremist groups until Sunni tribes turned on them and allied with the United States.

    Diyala province, northeast of Baghdad, is another trouble spot. On Tuesday, two suicide bombers killed 28 people in a crowd of army recruits outside a military base there. Iraq has said it will soon launch an offensive in Diyala against militants who are trying to regroup, and U.S. commanders say they will assist.

    Some insurgents are believed to have holed up in Mosul after being driven out of other urban strongholds, and relatively small-scale attacks happen there almost daily. On Wednesday afternoon, a car bomb exploded in the eastern part of the city, killing two people and injuring nine, police said.

    About an hour earlier, on the same side of the city, a suicide bomber blew up a car near a U.S. military patrol and six civilians were injured, a police official said. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he is not authorized to speak to the media.

    A female suicide bomber blew herself up Tuesday evening inside the Baghdad house of a municipal leader who was planning to establish a U.S.-allied Sunni group in the area, an official connected with the group said.

    Three men died and seven others were injured, said the official, who did not want to be named for security reasons. Saad Awad, a municipal leader in the Abu Ghraib district, escaped unharmed but his father was among those killed.

    Police were searching for a woman who had accompanied the bomber to the house but did not enter and fled the area. The U.S. military confirmed the attack.

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