At least 40 are killed in suicide attacks in Iraq

U.S. military releases Iranian-American

July 11, 2005|By Aamer Madhani | Aamer Madhani,CHICAGO TRIBUNE

BAGHDAD, Iraq -- At least 40 people were killed and dozens wounded as militants launched a series of suicide attacks yesterday targeting Iraqi security forces, U.S. troops and civilians throughout the country.

The fresh violence ended several days of relative peace in Iraq as suicide bombers attacked targets in Baghdad, Kirkuk, Mosul and on the Syrian border. Meanwhile, the U.S. military announced yesterday that it released an Iranian-American filmmaker who was detained for nearly two months without being charged.

Cyrus Kar, an Iranian-born U.S. citizen from Los Angeles and a former U.S. Navy sailor, was detained by the Iraqi army near Balad on May 17 along with an Iranian cameraman and a taxi driver. During a search of the taxi they were traveling in, Iraqi soldiers found 35 washing machine timers, commonly used for detonating roadside bombs, according to the U.S. military.

The FBI and coalition forces investigated Kar's case. Coalition forces convened a detainee status board July 4 and determined that Kar is not an enemy combatant, the military said. The Iranian cameraman was also released, but the U.S. military continues to hold the taxi driver.

"This case highlights the effectiveness of our detainee review process," said U.S. Air Force Brig. Gen. Don Alston, a coalition spokesman, in a statement. "We followed well-established procedures, and Mr. Kar has now been properly released."

Until yesterday, this month had been free of attacks resulting in mass casualties.

Yesterday's most deadly attack took place at the military recruitment center in Baghdad when a man with an explosives-laden vest strapped to his body blew himself up among a crowd of recruits waiting to be allowed into the compound. The attack killed 25 and wounded 47, according to hospital officials.

A young man looking to sign up as a soldier said he cheated death by minutes.

Wisam Rahim Khalaf said he was anxious about the long lines at the recruitment center, which have proved to be easy targets for suicide bombers. The recruitment center at Muthana Airfield has been hit by similar attacks several times, including an attack in February that left 21 dead.

By luck, Khalaf, 20, said, he squeezed toward the front of the line and was among the first to be allowed inside. A friend from Karbala whom he traveled with wasn't so lucky, Khalaf said.

Two or three minutes after Khalaf was allowed into the compound, he said, he heard a deafening explosion and screams from the gate.

A Shiite mother and seven of her children were found shot dead in their beds yesterday in Baghdad. One boy survived, police said. The distraught father, who was not home at the time, blamed the killings on sectarian hatred, the Associated Press reported.

In the attack at the Syrian border, suicide attackers detonated two vehicles rigged as car bombs near a border crossing and killed seven customs officers. After the attacks, Iraqi authorities closed the crossing and turned back hundreds of Iraqis trying to get back into Iraq, the AP reported.

In Mosul, a suicide car bomber slammed his vehicle into a convoy carrying a high-ranking police officer, Iraqi officials said. Four policemen were killed and three were wounded.

In the northern city of Kirkuk, four civilians were killed and 15 were wounded when a suicide car bomb exploded on a highway near a hospital, officials said.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari seemed to distance himself from comments made by a government spokesman that the Egyptian government has been less then forthcoming about the whereabouts of their chief diplomat, Ihab al-Sherif, before his slaying.

Laith Kuba, the spokesman, said last week that al-Sherif might have been on his way to meet with insurgents when he was kidnapped outside a bookstore in a busy shopping district July 2.

The diplomat's body has not been found, but al-Qaida in Iraq said in an Internet statement that it killed al-Sherif. Egyptian officials also said they believe he is dead.

"I don't have any information that the late Ihab al-Sherif has conducted a dialogue or was involved in any dialogue," al-Jaafari said during a news conference yesterday. "If what's being reported about an official comment is related to me, then I'm categorically denying that."

The Chicago Tribune is a Tribune Publishing newspaper.

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