Car bomb kills at least eight in Baghdad

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The Independent Online

A car bomb exploded in an outdoor market today in eastern Baghdad, killing at least eight people and wounding 31, police said.

The explosion occurred at 10am in the Nahda area, police Lt. Ahmed Mohammed said, a time when the market, where old furniture, household goods and appliances are sold, was especially busy during the start of the Islamic weekend.

Elsewhere in the capital, a roadside bomb missed an American convoy but injured three Iraqis on a minibus, police officer Maitham Addurraq said.

A roadside bomb also hit a police patrol at 8.30am in the northern city of Kirkuk, killing one policeman and wounding four others, police Brig. Khatab Omar said.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki planned to meet with Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki later today, a day after the Iraqi leader said he may soon be ready to name the two men who will be charged with carrying out his pledge to take over security for Iraq within 18 months.

The initial focus of the effort will be restoring order for the capital's more than 5 million residents, who have suffered the most from suicidal killers, roadside bombs and sectarian death squads.

"It is time for those who want to steal the smiles from the Iraqi people and turn its women into mourners to be silenced," said Deputy Prime Minister Salam Zikam Ali al-Zubaie, the Sunni Arab who is filling the defence post temporarily.

The announcement came yesterday, a day that saw 13 killings, including the deaths of two US soldiers who were killed by a roadside bomb in southern Baghdad.

Al-Zubaie did not provide details on al-Maliki's plans to restore security in Baghdad. However, President Jalal Talabani said securing the country would probably require a unified unit of soldiers and police.

"We are forming a force to protect Baghdad by the best and trained elements in the interior and defence ministries. They will be under one leadership and under the direct supervision of the prime minister," Talabani told al-Furat TV.

The various Iraqi police and army units now wear a variety of uniforms. Talabani said the new unit would wear one uniform, "be the only authorised force to travel in Baghdad." The goal is to eliminate death squads and other armed groups who roam the capital disguised as security forces.

There has been little discussion about al-Maliki's announced plan for a phased security takeover of Iraq's 18 provinces, or how it would lead to the eventual withdrawal of foreign troops.

The strategy has been for American and international forces to hand over security control for specific regions and redeploy to larger bases — where they could act in a support or reserve role. A final future stage would involve the drawdown of troops from those bases.

Mottaki arrived in Baghdad today according to Iraqi state television. The Foreign Ministry said he would meet with al-Maliki and other Iraqi officials during his visit.

Al-Maliki said he could decide by today on the two security ministers, who were not named last week along with the rest of his Cabinet because of ethnic and sectarian disagreements. The two would then probably be sworn in Sunday, when parliament reconvenes.