Sun, Feb 13, 2005 - Page 1 News List

Twenty-three die in Iraqi attacks

SLAYINGS The violence followed the announcements of provisional election results showing Shiite religious groups winning over secular tickets in much of the country

AP , BAGHDAD AND BASRA, IRAQ

A vegetable truck rigged with explosives blew up outside a Shiite mosque northeast of Baghdad, and gunmen sprayed automatic fire into a bakery in a Shiite district of the capital in sectarian violence that killed at least 23 people.

The attacks occurred on Friday as election officials announced provisional final results from the Jan. 30 elections for provincial councils in 12 of the 18 provinces, showing Shiite religious groups winning handily over secular tickets in local races in much of the country.

Final results from the more closely watched national race for the 275-member National Assembly are expected in a few days. A Shiite-dominated ticket endorsed by the clergy is also leading in the national contest, indicating the growing influence of religion in the politics of the new Iraq.

A prominent Iraqi judge was assassinated yesterday by two gunmen on a motorcycle in the southern port city of Basra, police said.

Taha al-Amiri, a former chief judge at Basra's highest criminal court, was gunned down as he drove to work, said Lieutenant Colonel Karim al-Zaidi, an information officer at Basra's police headquarters.

The judge's bodyguard was seriously wounded in the attack and was taken to a hospital, al-Zaidi said.

Insurgents in Iraq have frequently targeted Iraqi government officials.

A US soldier from Task Force Baghdad was killed in a bombing on Friday west of the capital, the US military said. More than 1,450 US service members have died in Iraq since the March 2003 invasion.

Overall, at least 31 people were killed on Friday, including 23 in the two sectarian attacks.

The bombing outside the Shiite mosque took place in Balad Ruz, 72km northeast of Baghdad. A pickup truck loaded with vegetables exploded just as worshippers were leaving prayer services. At least 12 people were killed, according to police Colonel Tahseen Mohammed.

In the attack on the bakery in the Shiite area of eastern Baghdad, gunmen in several cars blocked the street in front of the shop and stormed inside, shooting and killing 11 people, police said. The assailants escaped.

The attack appeared to fit a pattern of brutality by Sunni extremists against Shiites as the majority community stands on the verge of taking power as a result of the elections.

The country's most feared terror leader, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, has accused the US of manipulating the elections to install Shiites and Kurds in power. More than 70 Iraqis, many of them police and soldiers, have been killed in the last three days.

Many Sunni Arabs, who form the core of the insurgency, are believed to have stayed away from the polls, either out of fear of insurgent reprisals or opposition to an election with tens of thousands of US and other foreign troops on Iraqi soil.

A US official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said turnout in the insurgency stronghold of Anbar province was believed to be "in single digits," although no figures have been released from that area.

On Friday, the election commission released what it said were final results and turnout figures from local races in Baghdad and 11 other provinces, most of them predominantly Shiite or Kurdish.

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