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Truck Bombs Kill 63 Iraqis In Tal Afar

Two truck bombs struck markets in Tal Afar on Tuesday, killing at least 63 people and wounding 150, and suspected Sunni insurgents tried to ambush ambulances carrying the dozens of wounded in the second attack on the predominantly Shiite city in four days.

The bombings in Tal Afar, about 90 miles from the Syrian border, highlighted the resurgent violence in a city President George W. Bush held out as a symbol of U.S. success a year ago.

The deadliest blast occurred when an explosives-laden trucks was detonated by remote control while people gathered to buy the flour it was carrying in a Shiite neighborhood in the center of the city, 260 miles northwest of Baghdad.

A truck loaded with vegetables also blew up near a wholesale market in a northern part of the city.

On Saturday, a man wearing an explosives belt blew himself up outside a pastry shop in the central market area in Tal Afar, killing at least 10 people and wounding three, just over a year after President Bush declared the city was an example of progress made in bringing security to Iraq.

The attacks came on a day when scattered violence left at least 16 other people dead around the country.

A suicide car bomber killed at least 10 people in a market near Ramadi Tuesday, a mortar attack on a Shiite area in southern Baghdad killed at least four people and police in the northern city of Kirkuk said intruders killed two elderly sisters, both nuns at the Cathedral of the Virgin.

The suicide bomber near Ramadi exploded his payload in the al-Jazeera district northeast of the provincial capital in an area that was not patrolled by the military, police Col. Tarik Yousif said.

In other developments:

  • The Democratic-controlled Senate narrowly signaled support Tuesday for the withdrawal of U.S. combat troops from Iraq by next March. Republican attempts to scuttle the nonbinding timeline failed on a vote of 50-48, largely along party lines. The roll call marked the Senate's most forceful challenge to date of the administration's handling of a war that has claimed the lives of more than 3,200 U.S. troops.
  • The U.S. military says an American soldier and an American contractor were killed in a rocket attack on the heavily guarded Green Zone. One other contractor was seriously wounded and in stable condition, and three others were slightly wounded, said Lou Fintor, the embassy spokesman.
  • A military leader of the 1920 Revolution Brigades, a major Sunni Arab insurgent group, was killed Tuesday in an ambush west of Baghdad, the group said in a statement. A local official said Harith Dhaher al-Dhari died when gunmen fired rocket propelled grenades on his car in the Abu Ghraib district. A passenger traveling with al-Dhari also was killed as well as another associate in a second car traveling behind, according to the official.
  • U.S. soldiers foiled two suicide truck bombings against their base in a small town west of Baghdad and killed as many as 15 attackers, the U.S. military reported Tuesday. The attacks began when a water truck tried to drive into the base just north of Karmah, a town not far from the city of Fallujah, at about 2 p.m. Monday. A soldier opened fire and the truck bomb exploded.
  • The U.S. military said a Marine was killed Saturday during combat in Anbar province west of Baghdad but gave no details.
  • Suspected Shiite militants broke into a Sunni mosque in Iskandariyah, 30 miles south of Baghdad, Tuesday and planted explosives that damaged the gate and a fence, police said. Clashes broke out about an hour later, leaving four Sunni militants dead and one Shiite militant wounded, police said.
  • A roadside bomb struck Iraqi police on a foot patrol in southeastern Baghdad, killing a policeman and wounding two others, and another police officer was killed in a drive-by shooting in eastern Baghdad, police said.
  • A Shiite man and his three sons were wounded when a mortar round struck their house in Haswa, about 3 miles east of Iskandariyah, police said.
  • Kirkuk police 1st. Lt. Marewan Salih said the Chaldean Catholic nuns, Fawzeiyah Naoum, 85, and her 79-year-old sister, Margaret, were stabbed multiple times by two intruders who raided their home Monday night near Kirkuk's Cathedral of the Virgin in Kirkuk. They lived alone and there was no sign of a robbery, Salih said.

    Margaret Naoum was stabbed seven times as she stood in the garden just outside the sisters' home. The attackers then went inside where they found Mawzeiyah Naoum lying on the sofa, recovering from eye surgery last week. She was stabbed three times.

    Chaldean Catholics are an ancient Eastern sect now united with Roman Catholicism. Adherents live mainly in Syria, Turkey, Iran and Iraq, and most speak a dialect of Turkish.

    The mortar attack in south Baghdad occurred in Abu Dasheer, a Shiite enclave in the Sunni-dominated Dora neighborhood. Police said those killed included two children, a woman and a man. It was the second mortar attack on the enclave in three days — three people were killed on Saturday.

    In politics, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and President Jalal Talabani were planning to introduce legislation to allow former members of Saddam Hussein's ruling party — including those in the feared security and paramilitary forces — to resume jobs in the government or receive pensions, Iraqi officials said.

    Long demanded by the U.S. to appease Iraq's once-dominant Sunni Arab minority, the measure would set a three-month challenge period after which ex-Baath party loyalists would be immune from legal punishment for their actions during Saddam's reign.

    The draft law, which excludes former regime members already charged with or sought for crimes, also would grant state pensions to many Baathists, even if they were denied posts in the government or military.

    The reconciliation measure is seen as an effort to short-circuit expected criticism of Iraq's government at an Arab League summit this week. Al-Maliki is said to fear rising support among U.S.-allied Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Jordan for an Iraqi national unity government led by former Prime Minister Ayad Allawi, a favorite of Washington.

    The legislation is being sent to parliament under the names of al-Maliki, a Shiite, and President Jalal Talabani, a Kurd. Shiites and Kurds make up nearly 80 percent of Iraq's population, and both groups were severely oppressed by Saddam's largely Sunni regime.

    A joint statement from al-Maliki and Talibani said the measure had been put to al-Maliki's Cabinet for approval but did not give details of the draft law or say when it would go to the legislature.

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