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Karbala attacks kill 12, wound dozens

Bulgarians, Thais suffer first deaths

A university building watchman is helped after he was injured in one of several bomb attacks in Karbala on Saturday.

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Iraqi insurgents struck three targets in Karbala.
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BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- Insurgents struck three targets in the holy city of Karbala in Iraq on Saturday, killing four Bulgarian soldiers, two Thai army engineers and six civilians, and wounding dozens of troops and civilians, coalition authorities said.

At least 37 troops, including five U.S. soldiers, were hurt in attacks that targeted a police station, the town's city hall and Karbala University, where the six killed soldiers were living in barracks. More than 100 civilians were injured in the closely coordinated strikes, coalition authorities said.

The Bulgarian and Thai troops, the first from those countries to be killed in the Iraqi war, were part of a Polish-led multinational coalition force patrolling south-central Iraq.

In Sofia, the Bulgarian Defense Ministry reported the four Bulgarian deaths and said several other soldiers were wounded. In Bangkok, a Thai military spokesman told CNN that two army engineers were killed. Thailand has a noncombatant force in Iraq.

In Iraq, a Polish military spokesman said the attackers used four suicide car bombs, machine guns and mortars. The strikes hit two coalition compounds and the provincial governor's office.

Brig. Gen. Mark Kimmitt, deputy chief of operations for U.S. forces, said the insurgency responsible for such attacks appears to be small, loosely coordinated cells throughout the country.

"It takes a very few number of people in the country to create the kind of damage we are seeing," said Kimmitt.

Local police and witnesses said they saw a booby-trapped truck carrying gasoline slamming into a Karbala University building at 12:30 p.m local time. There were many casualties, the Polish military headquarters in Karbala said.

Police and witnesses said that 15 minutes later, rockets were fired at the provincial governor's office, also referred to as city hall. It was packed with people on what is a regular business day in Iraq. Casualties were numerous, a witness told CNN.

The city south of Baghdad had suffered under Saddam Hussein, who oppressed the Shiite community throughout the country.

Attack in southern Iraq atypical

The worst single wartime attack against multinationals in the south took place last month, when 17 Italian soldiers were killed in the bombing of their military headquarters in Nasiriya.

The southern regions have not been as turbulent during the war. Many of the attacks against the coalition targeted U.S. troops in the Sunni triangle and northern Iraq, largely with homemade bombs.

The coalition's anti-insurgency operations have been focused on Baghdad and nearby anti-U.S. hotbeds such as Ramadi and Fallujah.

U.S. convoys targeted

Elsewhere, six U.S. soldiers were wounded in two separate attacks on military convoys in Iraq Saturday morning, the military said.

Debris litters the ground in Karbala after Saturday's attack.

Five were wounded when a convoy of MPs was attacked by two improvised explosive devices in Baghdad at 7:25 a.m. local time Saturday, a 1st Armored Division spokesman said. One was wounded in another explosive device attack on a military convoy near Habaniya, west of Baghdad, at 8 a.m. local time, a spokesman with the Coalition Provisional Authority.

Friday night, a U.S. soldier died from injuries when a military vehicle wrecked in the Baghdad area, according to a statement issued by the Coalition Press Information Center. The news release calls the death accidental.

The attacks came on the heels of another series of deadly raids against U.S. forces. Striking several times in a 24-hour period in Iraq's restive "Sunni Triangle," insurgents killed five soldiers on Thursday and Friday. The region, north and west of Baghdad, is an area in which opposition to the U.S.-led coalition has been the greatest.

Meanwhile, the first Japanese noncombat troops left for the Iraq region on Friday, beginning the Asian country's biggest overseas military deployment since World War II. (Full story)

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