Suicide bombing in Iraq cafe kills at least 17


KIRKUK, Iraq -- A suicide bomber wearing an explosives belt walked into a crowded cafe in a Shiite Muslim neighborhood in the town of Tuz Khurmatu yesterday and blew himself up, killing at least 17 civilians and injuring 25.

A British soldier also was killed and an Iraqi oil company executive was kidnapped in a day of violence that left more than 30 Iraqis dead.

The Alam Dar cafe, next to a Shiite mosque in Tuz Khurmatu, was devastated in the blast, police and witnesses said. The dusty farming town, 40 miles south of the provincial capital of Kirkuk, is divided between ethnic Turkmens from the Shiite and Sunni branches of Islam, locked in an often violent battle for power.

In Kirkuk, which has been racked by increased violence, Iraqi police killed an insurgent and captured another, an Iraqi police officer said, after a failed attempt to assassinate a high-ranking Iraqi army officer.

Gunmen in the city, contested by Kurds, Arabs and Turkmens, also killed two brothers execution-style. Police found the lifeless body of a kidnapping victim. A truck driver was killed and two others kidnapped in separate incidents.

Violence also continued in Baghdad. An Oil Ministry spokesman said Adel Mohammed Qazzaz, a Kirkuk native who oversees the country's northern oil operations, was kidnapped in Baghdad during a visit to attend a meeting. His car was stopped along a highway by gunmen, who beat up Qazzaz's guards and took him away.

The high-profile kidnapping came one day after gunmen abducted the head of Iraq's National Olympic Committee and 30 other people. Six were set free yesterday in eastern Baghdad, left blindfolded and unharmed, Iraq's Sport Journalist Union said.

There was no word on the other hostages, including the Olympic National Committee chairman, Ahmed al-Hijiya.

Baghdad has been besieged with violence despite a monthlong security plan put in place by Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and renewed last week by parliament. About 2,020 people died violently in the city of 6 million in June, including 1,360 who were slain at close range by small-arms fire, according to numbers issued by the governor's office. At least 39 car bombs exploded, 120 mortar rounds struck the city and 166 roadside bombs exploded.

Gunmen swarmed a hospital in the city of Baqubah, killing four police officers and freeing 14 injured suspected insurgents. Police said they suspected that the assailants at the hospital were aided by corrupt police officers guarding the facility.

Police said the insurgents shot and seriously wounded one of the freed detainees, possibly to keep him from informing on their group.

Ali Windawi and Borzou Daragahi write for the Los Angeles Times. The Associated Press contributed to this article.

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