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Iraqi Envoy Aims To Avert Turkish Invasion

Iraq's Sunni Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi arrived in Ankara Tuesday to try to persuade Turkey not to stage a cross-border offensive to fight separatist Kurdish rebels based in the mountainous frontier region.

Meanwhile, a car bomb and an explosives-laden sewage pump truck struck Iraqi security forces in Baghdad and northern Iraq as at least 17 people were killed in attacks nationwide.

The Iraqi government reiterated its call for Turkey to use diplomacy, and Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki said he was dispatching a "high-level" political and security team to Ankara to try to defuse tensions on the Iraqi-Turkish border.

A statement by his office said the decision was made after al-Maliki met with senior aides to discuss the crisis.

Washington has pressed its NATO ally not to enter Iraq, fearing that unilateral Turkish military action could destabilize the autonomous Kurdish region in the north, which is one of Iraq's few relatively stable areas. The Kurds also are a longtime U.S. ally.

The explosives-laden car was parked near a gas station across the street from an Iraqi army checkpoint on Saadoun Street when it blew up just before noon, police and army officials said.

The officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they weren't authorized to release the information, said four civilians and two Iraqi soldiers were killed and 25 people were wounded, including 19 civilians.

It was the latest in a series of car bombings in the capital despite stringent security measures in place as part of U.S.-Iraqi military operations and celebrations marking the end of the Islamic holy month of Ramadan.

In the northern city of Mosul, a suicide bomber driving a sewage pump truck detonated his payload as he approached a police station that had been recently rebuilt after four previous attacks, police said.

The blast caused most of the building to collapse, killing at least four policemen, including the station chief, Capt. Ibrahim Mohammed, and wounding 75 people, police said.

Police spokesman Brig. Gen. Mohammed al-Waqqa said several nearby shops and cars were damaged as well.

Mosul, 225 miles northwest of Baghdad, has seen a rise in violence that many blame in part on an influx of militants who fled the Baghdad security crackdown.

Nobody claimed responsibility for the attacks, but both bombings bore the hallmarks of Sunni insurgents, particularly al Qaeda in Iraq.

(AP Photo/Khalid Mohammed)
U.S. commanders have cited major progress in curtailing al Qaeda operations during an eight-month security crackdown in Baghdad and surrounding areas, but they have been unable to stop the car bombings and suicide attacks usually attributed to the group.

In other developments:

  • In other violence Tuesday reported by police who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to release the information, three policemen were shot to death in a drive-by shooting at a checkpoint in Baghdad's eastern neighborhood of Zayouna. Gunmen shot to death two tribal leaders and two relatives in separate attacks west of Baghdad and in the southern city of Nasiriyah.
  • The military announced the capture in southern Baghdad of a suspected al Qaeda-linked militant believed to be a key leader in a car bomb network that was trying to re-establish itself after being disrupted by U.S.-led operations. Nine other suspects also were detained in that raid and others in the capital. U.S. troops also killed three al Qaeda-linked militants and detained 20 others during the weekend near the northern Sunni cities of Samarra and Tarmiyah, as well as the Anbar provincial capital of Ramadi, the military said.
  • A car bomb in western Baghdad's religiously mixed Harthiyah neighborhood Monday night killed at least six people and wounded 25, police said. Most of the victims were among families on their way home after spending the day in a nearby amusement park for Eid al-Fitr, the festival that follows the end of Ramadan.
  • A suicide car bomber also targeted a Sunni Arab group that has joined forces with the U.S. against al Qaeda around Balad, 50 miles north of Baghdad. The blast tore through a checkpoint near the Salahuddin Revival Council's office in Yathreb village, just outside Balad, killing six policemen and wounding eight people, including bystanders, police said.

    The U.S. military announced the arrest of several militants on both sides of the sectarian divide, including one of five extremists who were believed to be behind last week's rocket attack that killed two U.S. soldiers on Camp Victory, the headquarters for American forces in Iraq.

    The suspect was detained along with three known associates early Monday by U.S. soldiers, according to a statement. The alleged militants tried to hide in the Agriculture Ministry compound in eastern Baghdad and the soldiers entered the ministry to detain them, the military said.

    "We have reason to believe that, through two intelligence-driven operations over the last few days, we now have detained all of the leadership and the key operatives of the indirect fire cell that attacked Victory Base last week," said Brig. Gen. Vincent Brooks, the deputy commander of Baghdad operations.

    The statement didn't identify the militants, but the Agriculture Ministry -- which was closed for the holiday on Monday -- is run by Shiites with a heavy influence by the Mahdi Army militia that is loyal to radical cleric Muqtada al-Sadr.

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