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Death toll climbs in Iraq suicide blasts

An Iraqi Kurdish boy Zeid Salah Ahmed, 6, recovers Monday from cuts he sustained in a suicide bombing attack.
An Iraqi Kurdish boy Zeid Salah Ahmed, 6, recovers Monday from cuts he sustained in a suicide bombing attack.

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More than 50 people were killed in dual suicide bombings of Kurdish political offices in Erbil, Iraq.
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Three U.S. soldiers are among the dead in two explosions in northern Iraq.
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Soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan take part in the biggest U.S. troop rotation since World War II.
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BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- The death toll rose to 67 Monday from a pair of near-simultaneous suicide attacks at the headquarters of two Kurdish political parties in the northern Iraqi town of Erbil, a spokesman for the U.S.-led coalition said.

Coalition Provisional Authority spokesman Dan Senor said 247 people were wounded in the attacks, which took place Sunday morning at the headquarters of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan and Kurdistan Democratic Party.

"We have no group that's claimed responsibility," Senor said, saying al Qaeda or Ansar al-Islam, a northern Iraq group with suspected al Qaeda ties, could be responsible. "It could be any number of groups attempting to operate inside Iraq."

At least five senior Kurdish officials were among the dead, the coalition said.

Brig. Gen. Mark Kimmitt identified those officials as Sami Abdul Rahman, KDP's deputy prime minister of the Kurdish region; Mehdi Khoshnau, deputy governor of Erbil province; Saad Abdullah, head of KDP office in Erbil; Shahwan Abbas, military commander for PUK peshmerga, an all-volunteer force; and Shoshak Shira, PUK official.

Additionally, Rahman's two sons were killed, and Adnan Mofti, head of the KDP office, was wounded, according to the coalition.

PUK spokesman Qubad Talabani said that Mofti appeared to have suffered a number of broken bones.

The spokesman said his father, Jalal Talabani, PUK founder and secretary-general, was not in the building at the time of the blast.

Both headquarters were filled with people celebrating the start of Eid al-Adha, the biggest holiday in the Muslim calendar.

Kimmitt said individuals carried the bombs. Most other suicide attacks in Iraq have involved explosives packed into vehicles.

In a statement, L. Paul Bremer, the U.S. civilian administrator in Iraq, encouraged people to "vigorously work to ensure that the terrorists fail and that the people of Iraq succeed in arriving at the better, democratic future that is rightfully theirs."

Coalition personnel are aiding in the investigation, officials said.

The Kurdish region, which has been largely autonomous since the end of the 1991 Persian Gulf War, has been the most stable part of Iraq since Saddam Hussein's fall last year.

"This is going to unify the nation and the people to work against terrorism," Qubad Talabani said.

Bush to pick WMD panel

President Bush said Monday he would appoint a commission to review U.S. intelligence on the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. (Full story)

Responding to political pressure, Bush told reporters at a Cabinet meeting he wanted to look at prewar intelligence and what the Iraq Survey Group -- the U.S. team hunting for Iraq's weapons programs -- found.

"We also want to look at our war against proliferation and weapons of mass destruction in a broader context," Bush said. "So I'm putting together a independent, bipartisan commission to analyze where we stand, what we can do better as we fight this war against terror."

Bush later had lunch Monday with former U.S. chief weapons inspector David Kay, said White House spokesman Scott McCellan.

Kay told a Senate panel last week that his group did not find weapons of mass destruction and said he didn't believe significant stockpiles of banned weapons would be found.

A senior administration official said Monday that Bush will name members to the commission to review the prewar intelligence and that he had consulted some "appropriate" members of Congress about the appointments.

Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle, D-South Dakota, questioned whether that approach was independent.

"I think that it is important for us to have an independent commission, as I've said now on several occasions, but it truly should be independent," Daschle said.

"It sounds as if the president is going to call for one where he gets to appoint each of the members and dictate the design and ultimately the circumstances under which they do their work."

Other developments

• The U.S. Army has sharply scaled back its participation in a Pentagon program to furlough soldiers on duty in Iraq, citing a planned rotation of troops and some transportation issues, Maj. Gen. Martin Dempsey, commander of the 1st Armored Division, said Monday. He said he made the decision because "I can't any longer have them gone at such a critical point."

• U.S. military forces in Baghdad will be moving most of their base camps to the outskirts of the city to give most of the policing duties inside the capital to the Iraqi Civil Defense Corps, a senior military official said Monday.


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