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SLUG: 2-324408 CQ Iraq Violence (L-O) DATE: NOTE NUMBER:









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HEADLINE: Suicide Bomber Kills at Least 50 in Northern Iraq

INTRO: A suicide bomber has killed at least 50 people and wounded more than 100 others at a police recruitment center in northern Iraq. The latest bloodshed brings to around 200 the toll from six days of insurgent attacks. For VOA, Brian MacDonald reports from Baghdad.

TEXT: The latest, and bloodiest, attack struck Irbil, a Kurdish city 335-kilometers north of Baghdad.

An American military spokesman says the suicide bomber joined a line up of recruits for the Kurdistan regional police force, before detonating the explosives he was wearing.

Insurgents have sustained an apparently coordinated bombing campaign since Iraq's new government was approved, last week,

The effort has mainly targeted Iraqi security forces, although 11 Americans have been killed in attacks on U.S. convoys.

Most attacks have been in or around Baghdad, although one bomber hit the Sunday funeral of a Kurdish official in the north, killing about 25 mourners.

The Kurdish north has been relatively immune from the insurgent violence seen elsewhere in Iraq.

But the latest Irbil attack was the insurgency's bloodiest incident since February 28th, when a suicide car bomber hit a crowd of police and army recruits outside a medical clinic in Hilla - a mostly Shi'ite city south of the capital.

That attack killed 100 people and wounded more than 130 others - the highest casualty toll in the two-year insurgency following the toppling of Saddam Hussein by U.S.-led coalition forces.

Insurgents have stepped up their attacks in the past week, after the National Assembly approved a partial cabinet chosen by Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari.

A Shi'ite-dominated group of parties holds a slight majority in the assembly that was elected January 30th.

But the United Iraqi Alliance was only able to form a government through a deal with the second-place Kurdistan Alliance - closely tied to the Kurdish regional government in Irbil.

Mr. Jaafari also recognizes the need to include the Sunni Arab minority - formerly privileged under Saddam and now the backbone of the insurgency.

He agreed to assign the key defense portfolio to a Sunni. However, members of his own bloc have rejected successive Sunni nominees because of alleged links to the former regime.

Ongoing disputes have left five ministries undecided, with "acting ministers" standing in for now.

Two deputy prime minister posts - one of which is meant for a Sunni - also remain empty, with Mr. Jaafari saying he hopes for a resolution to the impasse within a few days.

In a troubling sign of brewing sectarian tension, Vice President Ghazi al-Yawar and two confirmed Sunni Arab cabinet ministers failed to show up for an official swearing-in ceremony, Tuesday. (SIGNED)


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