Bomb attack on Iraqi President's wife

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Iraq's first lady escaped unharmed from a bomb attack that hit her motorcade and injured four body guards in downtown Baghdad yesterday.

US troops killed 18 Shiite extremists in unrelenting street battles in the capital's Shiite militia strongholds. Iraq's government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh said there was no "conclusive" evidence that Shiite extremists have been directly supplied with some Iranian arms as alleged by the United States.

The US military said that 11 al-Qaida insurgents were killed over the weekend in central and northern Iraq and a powerful roadside bomb killed four Marines Friday in the deadliest attack in months in the former al-Qaida stronghold of western Anbar province.

President Jalal Talabani's wife, Hiro Ibrahim Ahmed, was headed to the National Theater to attend a cultural festival when her motorcade was hit in the Karrada district of Baghdad, the president's office said. It was not immediately clear whether she was the target or it was a random bombing.

Amid spiraling violence, al-Dabbagh and US military spokesman Rear Adm. Patrick Driscoll vowed to maintain crackdowns on Shiite militias and al-Qaida insurgents in a news conference.

US troops yesterday killed nine al-Qaida insurgents, including three who were wearing suicide vests, in a clash near Lake Thar Thar in the predominantly Sunni Salahuddin province northwest of Baghdad, the military said. Two other al-Qaida insurgents were killed in Samarra north of Baghdad on Saturday, it said.

The military also said it used drones and Bradley fighting vehicles to kill 18 militants in several clashes in Shiite militia strongholds of Sadr City, Shula and New Baghdad on Sunday.

Iraqi health officials said at least 10 people — including two children — were killed in the past 24 hours in Sadr City, a slum of 2.5 million people and a stronghold for the Shiite Mahdi Army militia of radical cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, who is believed to be living in Iran. It was not clear whether any Shiite extremists were among them because health authorities did not provide a breakdown.

Iraq is seeking to increase pressure on Iran, accused by the United States of financing and training Shiite militants in Iraq and of funneling lethal weapons into the country. Iranian officials have denied the allegations.