Iraqi security appointments stall


BAGHDAD, Iraq -- Bombs and gunfire rattled Iraq yesterday, claiming more civilian lives while closed-door talks to appoint security ministers dragged through another day without resolution.

When Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki named his Cabinet ministers Saturday, he left the security ministries open and opted to appoint himself and his two deputies as temporary guardians. Iraq's major Shiite and Sunni parties had failed for months to agree on candidates for the crucial posts of interior minister, defense minister and national security minister.

Al-Maliki pledged Sunday to end the security vacuum by appointing ministers within two or three days. Yesterday, a leader with al-Maliki's United Iraqi Alliance said the ministries might not be filled by tomorrow.

With thousands of civilians already lost to violence and the body count creeping higher by the day, frazzled Iraqi citizens are desperate for their new government to find neutral, effective bosses to oversee the army and police.

"The prime minister is negotiating with the blocs, and they give him their opinions," said Haydar al Abadi, a member of the United Iraqi Alliance. "The ministries will be announced as soon as there will be an agreement between the major blocs."

The killings that have washed over the country in recent months claimed another round of victims yesterday, all of them shot dead as they made their way to work through the streets of Baghdad.

A professor at Technology University was gunned down as he drove to work. A bureaucrat in the Ministry of Industry, also on his way to work, was shot dead on the same street. And a policeman who was walking to work was killed by gunmen in the restive neighborhood of Amiriyah.

In the northern city of Kirkuk, an employee of the Kurdistan teachers' syndicate was fatally shot.

Later yesterday morning, a roadside bomb went off alongside an Iraqi police patrol as it wended through a shopping district in New Baghdad. The blast killed three people and wounded six. One policeman was among the dead; most of the casualties were civilians.

A late-afternoon car bombing near a bustling square in the Shiite slum of Sadr City killed three people and injured three more.

"I grabbed my young brother and hid behind a parked car," said Hussein Abdul-Hady, 20, a student who was on his way to play soccer when he saw a minibus explode. "It was a horrible scene, bodies without hands, people were running in chaos, screaming."

At least eight more people were killed and 21 wounded when a bomb attached to a parked motorcycle exploded as worshipers filed out of a Shiite mosque after prayers. The mosque was also damaged in the attack.

Street-to-street gunbattles erupted in Samarra last night after gunmen stormed the headquarters of the city council chief. Bodyguards shot back and chased the attackers through the neighborhood. Four people were killed in the clashes.

Megan K. Stack and Saif Hameed write for the Los Angeles Times.

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