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Iraq Suicide Bombings Kill 48

A man strapped with explosives blew himself up Sunday at a military recruiting center, one of series of suicide attacks that killed at least 48 people. Five U.S. troops were wounded in a bombing as the prime minister complained Americans were too quick to fire on civilians deemed suspicious.

Sunday's deadliest attack occurred at the army recruiting center at Muthana airfield in central Baghdad when a man dressed in civilian clothes detonated two explosive-laden belts among a crowd of recruits, killing 25 others and wounding 49, U.S. and hospital officials said. Most of the dead were believed to have been recruits.

Al Qaeda in Iraq claimed responsibility in a Web posting but the authenticity could not be verified. In February, a suicide bomber blew himself up outside the same garrison, killing 21 people.

In other recent developments :

  • A Shiite mother and seven of her children were found shot dead in their beds Sunday in Baghdad. One boy survived, police said. The distraught father, who was not at home at the time, blamed the killings on sectarian hatred.
  • The body of kidnapped Iraqi karate association chief Ali Shakir was found floating in the Tigris river southeast of Baghdad. It was not known why Shakir, a 38-year-old former Iraq karate and judo champion, was abducted.
  • Iraqi police may have foiled a planned attack on Kuwait's embassy when officers found a rocket propelled grenade round near the mission's southeast entrance, the U.S. military said Sunday.
  • An aspiring Iranian-American filmmaker who has been detained by the U.S. military for nearly two months without being charged was released Sunday, officials said. Cyrus Kar, 44, was taken into custody May 17 near Balad when potential bomb parts were found in a taxi in which he was riding. His family had filed a lawsuit accusing the federal government of violating his civil rights by holding him even after he the FBI cleared him of suspicion.

    In Sunday's other attacks, two suicide car bombers killed at least seven Iraqi customs officials at the Walid border crossing point into Syria, the U.S. military said. Syrian authorities closed the crossing point, turning back about 300 Iraqis trying to return home, a Syrian source said on condition of anonymity.

    Separately, a suicide car bomber rammed into a police convoy carrying an Iraqi brigadier general near the northern city of Mosul, killing five policemen and wounding three, the U.S. military and police said. The senior officer was not injured.

    A suicide car bomb also exploded in Kirkuk, killing at least four civilians and wounding 15, according to police. A second car bomb was rigged to explode as rescuers rushed to the scene, but it was found and detonated by American troops, police reported.

    Two other suicide car bombers struck in Fallujah and Ramadi, the U.S. Marines said. One Iraqi civilian was killed and one Marine was wounded.

  • Five American soldiers were injured by a roadside bomb in southeastern Baghdad, the U.S. command said. They were reported in stable condition at a military hospital.

    The attacks pushed the death count to over 1,500 people killed in violence since April 28, when Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari announced his Shiite- and Kurd-dominated government in a country under attack from an insurgency led by Iraq's Sunni Arab minority.

    During a press conference, al-Jaafari criticized U.S. and multinational forces for shooting at Iraqi civilians who act suspiciously near patrols or military areas, saying such cases should be handled in a "civilized" way.

    "We have spoken with officials here and told them about a phenomenon of killing Iraqis for reasons of suspicion," al-Jaafari said. "Some of the multinational forces are killing Iraqis and I gave them two examples."

    He said troops should handle threats in a "civilized" way, such as shooting at tires instead of passengers.

    Lt. Col. Steven Boylan, a spokesman for the U.S. command, said U.S. forces investigate all fatal shootings and blamed the problem on the growing use of suicide car bombs as an insurgent weapon.

    "Terrorists, through use of suicide (vehicles), have caused this predicament," Boylan said. "They have affected the normal level of trust that people have for one another and have made it difficult to distinguish between normal traffic and a grave potential threat."

    Also Sunday, al-Jaafari sought to ease tensions with Egypt in the wake of the reported kidnap-slaying of Cairo's top diplomat here, Ihab al-Sherif. The envoy was abducted July 2 and al-Qaida claimed in a Web posting to have killed him, although it provided no photos and the body has not been found.

    Egyptian officials were enraged after Iraqi authorities criticized al-Sherif for traveling without security and suggested he may have been in contact with insurgents. On Saturday, Egypt had demanded an explanation from Iraq.

    "I don't have any information that the late Ihab al-Sherif has conducted a dialogue or was involved in any dialogue or any meeting," al-Jaafari told reporters. "If what's being reported about an official comment is related to me, then I'm categorically denying that."

    Al-Sherif's abduction and attacks against Pakistani and Bahraini envoys have sent shockwaves through Iraq's diplomatic community and raised concerns about a diplomatic exodus, especially Arab missions.

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