Suicide bomb kills 25 Iraqi guardsmen

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The Independent Online

Insurgents killed at least 25 Iraqi National Guardsmen in a suicide bombing outside a US military base near Balad, a city in the Sunni triangle yesterday.

Insurgents killed at least 25 Iraqi National Guardsmen in a suicide bombing outside a US military base near Balad, a city in the Sunni triangle yesterday.

A few hours later, militants, who oppose the elections to be held this month, shot dead three Iraqi policemen and a local political leader near Samarra, another Sunni town.

The killings, part of a torrent of attacks on Iraqi security forces, have raised doubts about the interim government's ability to protect voters at the polls on 30 January. "This is not a good situation," said Lt-Col Haydar Rasool, an Iraqi National Guard battalion commander in Baghdad. "If someone doesn't want to participate in the elections he should not participate. Why kill us?"

In Balad, two men in a vehicle packed with explosives veered into a bus carrying the Iraqi soldiers, also killing at least one civilian. It was the deadliest attack on security forces since a Baghdad car bomb at a police recruiting station in September.

Violence against the security forces has been relentless. Assassins killed a Baghdad police major outside his home on Saturday. A videotape surfaced over the weekend in which masked men claiming ties to al-Qa'ida killed five Iraqi security officials in broad daylight on the streets of the Sunni town of Ramadi, pumping their lifeless bodies with bullets.

"To the families of civil defence forces: Say your final good-byes to your sons before you send them to us," a masked militant says in the video. "Our reward to your sons is slaughter."

The elections are likely to reshape the country's political topography. Sunni Arabs dominated Iraq under Saddam Hussein as well as under the British-installed monarchy of the 1920s and the Ottoman Empire before that. The country's majority Shias and Kurds are now poised to take control.

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