Wave of violence across Iraq leaves 21 dead

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The Independent Online

Suicide bombers killed 15 Iraqi soldiers, a senior commander was assassinated and five women were murdered in an ambush in a wave of violence across the country.

Suicide bombers killed 15 Iraqi soldiers, a senior commander was assassinated and five women were murdered in an ambush in a wave of violence across the country.

The blasts at the towns of Ramadi and Iskandariyah, both centres of Sunni resistance, also injured 23 others, including two US soldiers. Insurgents also blew up one of the main pipelines supplying oil to Baghdad from the northern oilfields.

In the National Assembly, the two biggest factions, Shias and Kurds, said they were close to agreeing on a national government. Ibrahim al-Jaafari, a Shia is expected to be named prime minister, and the Kurdish leader, Jalal Talabani, president. One vice-president is likely to be Sunni, although many boycotted the elections.In Basra, protesters demanded the oil and transport ministers should be from the southern region.

But questions were being raised on whether a viable democratic system can be established against a background of continuing strife. Although the US death toll had fallen, attacks on Iraqi security forces, as well as civilian casualties, have risen. Iraqis connected with the occupying powers remain prime targets for the insurgents. The five women, translators for the US military, were on their way home when men in two cars sprayed them with machine-gun fire in Baghdad.

Police Captain Ahmed Aboud said: "They must have been watched. The gunmen knew which route they will be taking after finishing work and they were waiting. It is always a risk when one works with the Americans." An unnamed Sunni group said attacks will continue on collaborators.

In the first suicide attack, the bomber blew himself and his car up at a checkpoint in Ramadi, killing 11 Iraqi police commandos and injuring 14 others on Thursday. Twenty-four hours later, another bomb-laden car was detonated in Iskandariyah, part of the so-called "triangle of death", south of Baghdad, beside an Iraqi army convoy, killing four soldiers and injuring nine others, including civilians. Hamid al-Rahim, a 22-year-old labourer and Ramadi resident who saw the attack said: "We have had nothing but violence since the war. They talk about elections, but the Americans and the government in Baghdad do not control the country."

The US and Iraqi authorities insist a backlash has started against the insurgents. Days ago, shop-owners in Baghdad brought out their guns and returned fire on insurgents and yesterday hundreds of power workers marched through Baghdad carrying black banners displaying the names of murdered colleagues, and shouting " No, no, no to terror".

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