Carnage as Iraqi army centre is shelled

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The Independent Online

Up to 14 people were killed in a mortar attack on an army recruitment center in Baghdad today.

Up to 14 people were killed in a mortar attack on an army recruitment center in Baghdad today.

Police said insurgents shelled the old Muthana airfield in the heart of the capital, home to an Iraqi National Guard headquarters that has come under frequent attack in the insurgent campaign against Iraq's fledgling security services.

Explosions sounded acress Baghdad today as militants battled Iraqi security troops, leaving at least five other Iraqis dead, officials said.

Three police officers were killed in clashes that broke out in Baghdad's western Ghazaliya neighborhood, scene of numerous clashes and assassinations over the past six months.

Also, assailants sprayed a politician's car with gunfire, killing two of the man's sons, an Interior Ministry official said. The politician, Mithal al-Alosi, who heads the Nation party, escaped the attack unhurt.

As ballot counting proceeded in Iraq's general elections, a Kurdish ticket moved into second place behind Shi'ite religious parties, edging ahead of a faction led by US-backed Prime Minister Ayad Allawi.

More than a week after landmark elections, a Kurdish group pulled into second place ahead of Allawi's candidates after votes were released from the Kurdish self-governing area of the north.

First election returns from the Sunni heartland - including Saddam Hussein's hometown of Tikrit - confirmed on Monday that many Sunnis stayed away from the ballot box, leaving the field to Shiite and Kurdish candidates. A Shiite-dominated ticket backed by the Shiite clergy leads among the 111 candidate lists, with a final tally of last week's election for a 275-member National Assembly expected by week's end.

Allawi, who favors strong ties with the United States, had hoped to emerge as a compromise choice for prime minister, but those on the Shiite cleric-backed ticket say they want one of their own for the top job.

Kurds, estimated at 15-20 percent of the population, gave most of their votes to a joint ticket made up of the two major Kurdish parties, which was in second with about 24 percent of the votes reported as of Monday. One of the Kurdish leaders, Jalal Talabani, has announced his candidacy for the presidency.

In London, Prime Minister Tony Blair said today he hoped that international support for training Iraqi security forces would broaden at a NATO summit later this month.

He said he expected members to strike an agreement at the 22 February meeting in Brussels, where President George Bush will meet allied leaders for the first time since his re-election in November.

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