Suicide bomb attack outside US base leaves nine dead

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Nine Iraqis were killed and 61 injured yesterday when a suicide bomber blew himself up in a car outside a security base at Taji, north of Baghdad, part of a wave of attacks in and around the Iraqi capital.

And, in a separate attack, a British security contractor was killed in a drive-by attack in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul, the Foreign Office confirmed yesterday. Craig Dickens, an of ArmorGroup International Ltd, was shot when gunmen opened fire on Saturday on a convoy of vehicles. Mr Dickens' age and home-town were not released.

Three other employees ­ Peter Lloyd, Stephen Baigent and David Leach ­ were injured, but were recovering.

The bombings and ambushes are being carried out in Shia districts, as well as Sunni. In the past three days, seven US soldiers have been killed near the enormous Shia slum known as Sadr City in east Baghdad. The suicide bombing at Taji was claimed by a group headed by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, who is allegedly linked to al-Qa'ida. A statement said: "One of the heroes of this country, may he rest in peace, struck at a military base belonging to the US forces in Taji."

The bomb exploded outside the base of the Iraqi Civil Defence Corps, a 40,000-strong paramilitary group that the US has been seeking to build as an auxiliary force to aid the 138,000 US troops in Iraq. The surge in attacks may be connected with the approaching handover of sovereignty to an Iraqi interim government on 30 June, but the pattern is changing.

Increasing numbers of killings are inside the capital. On Saturday gunmen attacked civilian security in two four-wheel-drive vehicles and killed four ­ two Americans and two Poles ­ on the airport road.

The US also no longer controls the road from Baghdad to Fallujah, the city that Marines besieged in April but did not capture.. The city is still under the control of the resistance.

**Britain and the United States hopeful of a breakthrough inside the United Nations Security Council after receiving a letter from Iyad Allawi, the new Prime Minister, detailing the relationship between his government and the multinational force. That letter, as well as a detailed response from the US Secretary of State, Colin Powell, to be presented to members at a Security Council session to be convened late yesterday in New York. A new resolution designed to endorse the new interim government may be adopted later this week.

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