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Four Car Bombings Rock Baghdad

Four Baghdad car bombings on Wednesday killed at least 23 people and injured 51 others, police said.

Three additional explosions caused by roadside bombs in western and eastern Baghdad killed three insurgents planting the devices, police said.

The first two bombs went off in front of two restaurants in the predominantly Shiite neighborhood of Shula in western Baghdad, killing at least 11 and injuring 28. The third — apparently driven by a suicide bomber — ran into a nearby bus station, killing at least eight people and injuring 20, police Lt. Majid Zeki and police Maj. Mousa Abdul Karim said.

A suicide car bomber attacked an Iraqi army patrol in Baghdad's western Ameriyah suburb and killed at least four bystanders, police said. The attack occurred at about 9:45 p.m., said Najim Abid, a police officer in Baghdad's Yarmouk Hospital. The four dead included a woman and a child, he said. There were no Iraqi soldiers among the wounded.

According to police in Shula, the first two bombs went off at 9:30 p.m. in front of the al-Haji restaurant, located next door to a shop selling falafel sandwiches and ice cream — which had been targeted by another car bomb on June 10.

Both bombs targeted people sitting outside the grill restaurant, which sold shish kebabs and other barbecued meats, while the suicide car bomber then ran the third car into the bus station 300 yards away.

On June 10, a car bomb exploded outside the falafel and ice cream shop, a popular hangout for youngsters, and killed 10 people sitting or waiting for the fried chickpea sandwiches, a staple in the Middle East.

Three U.S. soldiers were killed by small-arms fire during combat operations west of Baghdad, the military said Wednesday.

The soldiers were killed Tuesday near the city of Ramadi, the military said. They were attached to the U.S. Army's 2nd Brigade Combat Team, which is assigned to the II Marine Expeditionary Force.

Ramadi, an insurgent stronghold, is 70 miles west of Baghdad.

At least 1,727 members of the U.S. military have died since the war began in March 2003, according to an Associated Press count.

In other recent developments:

  • After almost eight months in captivity, Filipino accountant Robert Tarongoy, who worked for a Saudi company that does catering for the Iraqi army, was released, Philippines President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo announced Wednesday. Tarongoy was kidnapped on Nov. 1 along with American Roy Hallums from their office in Baghdad after a gunbattle killed an Iraqi guard and an attacker. Hallums' fate is not known.

  • A roadside bomb struck an Iraqi police patrol that included a special operations unit, killing two policeman and wounding two others in Madain, about 14 miles southeast of Baghdad, said police Maj. Raed Falah al-Mehamadawi said.
  • A group of children on bicycles ran over a bomb planted beneath the ground east of Baqouba, killing a 9-year-old boy and injuring two others aged 6 and 7, Army Maj. Fadhil al-Timimi said. Baqouba is 35 miles northeast of Baghdad.
  • A roadside explosion meant for a U.S. military convoy killed an Iraqi civilian and wounded three others west of Ramadi, Dr. Abdullah al-Dulaimi said. There were no reports of U.S. casualties in the city, 70 miles west of Baghdad.

    On Wednesday, gunmen killed a former judge whose name once was on a list of Sunni Arabs joining a parliamentary committee to draft Iraq's new constitution, officials said.

    Former judge Jassim al-Issawi, whose candidacy to join the 55-member committee was later dropped, was a law professor at Baghdad University and the former editor-in-chief of Al-Siyadah newspaper, said Salih al-Mutlak, secretary general of the Sunni National Dialogue Council.

    Al-Issawi, 51, and his son were killed in Baghdad's northwestern Shula neighborhood, said Abdul Sattar Jawad, current editor of Al-Siyadah.

    The core of a violent insurgency plaguing most of Iraq is thought to be composed of Sunni Arabs fighting to overthrow the U.S.-backed, Shiite-led government of Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari. Some militants have begun threatening fellow Sunnis because some of their leaders have expressed a readiness to join the political process.

    "The assassination of professor Jassim al-Issawi comes within an organized campaign aiming to liquidate all Sunni figures who will play an important role in the upcoming political process," said al-Mutlak. "Many threats were directed toward Sunni figures in order for them not to take part in the constitutional committee."

    On Monday, Sunnis submitted a list of 15 candidates for the Shiite-dominated committee drafting the constitution, but were having second thoughts about a demand by legislators that they first win the backing of a larger Sunni group.

    The names of the Sunni candidates have not been announced, but al-Issawi was not on the most recent list. He was dropped in earlier negotiating rounds, officials said.

    The latest snag in efforts to give Sunnis a bigger say in drafting the constitution will likely take days to resolve, further eroding the little time remaining for the charter to be drafted by mid-August. Iraq's government wants to hold a referendum on the charter ahead of December elections for a full-term government.

    The number of attacks blamed on Islamic extremists has escalated since al-Jaafari announced his government on April 28. Nearly 1,200 people have been killed since then, according to an AP tally based on military, police and hospital reports.

    On Tuesday, al Qaeda in Iraq said it has formed a unit of potential suicide attackers who are exclusively Iraqis, an apparent bid to deflect criticism that most of the bombers are foreign.

    The U.S. military has said foreign fighters make up only about 5 percent of the insurgents. They do a disproportionate amount of killing, however, in part because they are more likely to carry out suicide bombings.

    Analysts in the U.S. and elsewhere say the foreign fighters are primarily Islamic militants waging what they regard as jihad or holy war, while the much larger homegrown, mostly Sunni Arab, insurgency has tended to be motivated more by political grievance and factional rivalry.