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Iraq Blasts Kill At Least 24

A bomb exploded outside a bank in the northern city of Kirkuk on Tuesday, killing 19 people, including pensioners waiting for checks and child street vendors. The bodies of 24 men killed in ambushes were brought to a Baghdad hospital.

A suicide car bomber also rammed his vehicle into an Iraqi army checkpoint, killing five soldiers and wounding two others in Kan'an, about 30 miles north of Baghdad, Iraqi Army Col. Ismael Ibrahim said. Two civilians were also wounded.

The spree of killings across the country comes as lawmakers wrangle over how big a say Sunni Arab Muslims should have drawing up the country's new constitution. The wrangling threatens to further alienate Sunni Arabs, who fell from power after their patron, Saddam Hussein, was ousted and detained. Sunni Arabs account for most of the insurgents wreaking havoc across Iraq.

In other developments:

  • On Monday, new footage of a subdued-looking Saddam released by the Iraqi Special Tribunal showed the former dictator being quizzed by a judge — apparently on Sunday — about the killings of at least 50 Iraqis in a Shiite town. Unlike Saddam's combative appearance at his arraignment on July 1, 2004 — the last time he was seen on video — the new tape reveals a man who appears a shadow of his former self.
  • U.S. and Iraqi officials are considering some difficult-to-swallow ideas as they try to divide and conquer insurgents fighting in Iraq, including amnesty for some of the militants. Officials say negotiations have begun to try to draft an amnesty policy, which would attempt to reach out to Iraqis fighting U.S. forces. Authorities tell The Associated Press that amnesty would not be extended to foreign extremists like Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, who are responsible to Iraq's bloodiest attacks.
  • As of Monday, June 13, 2005, at least 1,701 members of the U.S. military have died since the beginning of the Iraq war in March 2003, according to an Associated Press count. At least 1,301 died as a result of hostile action, according to the Defense Department. The figures include five military civilians. The AP count is four higher than the Defense Department's tally, last updated at 10 a.m. EDT Monday. The British military has reported 89 deaths; Italy, 25; Ukraine, 18; Poland, 17; Spain, 11; Bulgaria, 10; Slovakia, three; Estonia, Thailand and the Netherlands, two each; and Denmark, El Salvador, Hungary, Kazakhstan and Latvia one death each.

    The bomb in Kirkuk, 180 miles north of Baghdad, killed 19 people, including retirees waiting for checks and child street vendors, outside the Rafidiyan Bank, said police Brig. Sarhad Qadir. He said another 81 people were injured.

    The bomb exploded close to a walkover bridge crossing the road in front of the bank. Children and other vendors selling products from sugar to kitchen utensils on both the bridge and the road underneath were among those killed.

    "I came here to get my wages and I brought my grandson with me who insisted on accompanying me," said Hussein Mohammed, a 70-year old retired employee of the Northern Oil Company, his head swathed in bandages. "The bomb exploded as we queued outside the bank and we were injured and rushed to hospital." The child survived.

  • The pavement outside the bank was strewn with rubble and glass from the building, while several bodies were seen lying underneath wreckage. At least two cars parked nearby were set ablaze.

    Kirkuk is an ethnically mixed oil-rich city where insurgents have routinely launched deadly attacks apparently seeking to foment ethnic tension.

    The bodies of 24 men — some of which were beheaded — that had been killed in recent ambushes on convoys in western Iraq were brought to a Baghdad hospital, a hospital morgue official Tuesday.

    Ali Chijan said two batches of bodies were brought to western Baghdad's Yarmouk Hospital late Monday.

    Seventeen of the bodies believed to be all Iraqis were found near Khaldiyah, 75 miles west of Baghdad, Chijan said.

    Hospital official Dr. Mohammed Jawad said some of the bodies had been decapitated and the others had been shot in the head.

    Jawad said the bodies might belong to men who have been missing since their convoy delivering supplies for the U.S. military was ambushed near Khaldiyah on Thursday.

    Two of the bodies were identified as an Iraqi policeman and an interpreter, but it was not immediately clear which company they worked for.

    Chijan said the badly decomposed bodies of another seven men, including one Iraqi and six believed to be "Asians," were brought to the hospital after being killed in a convoy ambush several days ago. Most had been shot in the face.

    The slain Iraqi was identified as Ahmed Adnan, said his cousin, Hussein Ali, who was interviewed by The Associated Press at the hospital.

    Ali said his cousin worked for a U.S.-owned company American-Iraqi Solution group.

    Carter Andress, a senior vice president for the company, told the AP in Baghdad that one of the firm's cargo convoys had been ambushed on a highway Sunday west of the volatile Anbar province town of Ramadi.

    "One of our cargo convoys was ambushed and we are investigating the incident now," Andress said without providing any further details.

    The highway linking Baghdad to Jordan in the west cuts through the volatile Anbar province, a region notorious for kidnappings, ambushes and bombings.

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