Deadly Day: Insurgents Kill 33

Iraqi insurgents set off bombs and fired rocket-propelled grenades and automatic weapons at military convoys, checkpoints and police patrols in a spate of violence Monday that killed 33 people and wounded dozens.

The terror group al Qaeda in Iraq, led by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, claimed responsibility for much of the bloodshed.

As the attacks persisted, so did negotiations to form Iraq's first democratically elected government. Iraqi Kurds said they were close to a deal with the Shiite clergy-backed United Iraqi Alliance to secure many of their territorial demands and ensure the country's secular character after its National Assembly convenes March 16.

The dominant Shiite Muslim alliance, however, said although it agreed that Kurdish leader Jalal Talabani would become Iraq's president, it was still talking about other conditions set by the Kurds for their support in the 275-member legislative body.

The wave of violence came as Dutch troops ended their mission in the southern city of Samawa and turned command of the area to the British, along with responsibility for 550 Japanese soldiers. The Dutch government last year decided to pull out its final 350 troops, despite requests from Britain and the United States.

Another ally, Bulgaria, demanded Monday that the United States investigate what appeared to be a friendly fire incident Friday that killed of one of the 460 Bulgarian soldiers in Iraq. Although Bulgaria's defense minister said the death would not lead to a withdrawal, his government must decide this month whether to keep troops in Iraq past July.

In other developments:

  • In Baghdad's Doura district, gunmen killed Mahmood Khudier, a former Iraqi army officer, while a man was killed in a mortar attack in Qaim, near the Syrian border, hospital and police officials said.
  • Hundreds of people packed a church in Rome Monday to pay their last respects to an Italian intelligence officer shot and killed by American troops in Iraq while escorting an ex-hostage to freedom.
  • A car bomb exploded outside the home of an Iraqi army officer in Balad, 50 miles north of Baghdad, killing 12 people and injuring 21 others, said the city's police chief, Ayad Ahmed. Hospital officials said all of the dead were bystanders.
  • In Baghdad, gunmen killed two police and wounded a third in a drive-by shooting in the eastern slum of Sadr City, said Dr. Abdul Jabar Solan, director of a hospital where the casualties were brought.
  • In Bulgaria, Defense Minister Nikolai Svinarov said a Bulgarian soldier killed last week in Iraq was likely shot by friendly fire from troops of the U.S.-led coalition.
  • Two civilians were killed when a roadside bomb targeting a joint U.S.-Iraqi military convoy exploded in the west Baghdad neighborhood of Amiriyah. Another roadside bomb exploded in the southeastern New Baghdad suburb, wounding several people on a bus.
  • In the latest in a wave of abductions, Jordan's Foreign Ministry spokesman said a Jordanian businessman was kidnapped in Iraq by abductors demanding $250,000 in ransom.

    The Shiite alliance controls 140 seats and need the 75 seats won by the Kurds in the Jan. 30 elections to muster the necessary two-thirds majority to elect a president and later seat their choice for prime minister, Ibrahim al-Jaafari.

    An alliance official said interim Prime Minister Ayad Allawi, whose party won 40 seats, refused an offer for a Cabinet post. Allawi's office could not be reached for comment.

    "Iraqis defied the terrorists and they went to the polling stations in order to see their elected representatives meet and debate the future of the country," interim Deputy Prime Minister Barham Saleh, a Kurd, said of the decision to convene the assembly.

    Al Qaeda in Iraq purportedly claimed responsibility in an Internet statement for much of the bloodshed that killed 15 people Monday in and around Baqouba, 35 miles northeast of Baghdad. The assaults included a car bomb, three roadside bombs and small arms attacks on three checkpoints, one of them just south of Baqouba in Muradiyah, said police Col. Mudhafar al-Jubbori

    In the latest in a wave of kidnappings, a Jordanian businessman abducted in Iraq was freed Monday after his family paid a $100,000 ransom, his brother said. Ibrahim Al-Maharmeh, a food importer, was kidnapped in Baghdad on Saturday.

    About 200 foreigners have been abducted in Iraq over the past year. At least 13 remain in the hands of their captors and more than 30 were killed. The rest were freed, some through the payment of ransom, or escaped.