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Car bomb kills 35 in Baghdad

Six Iraqis die in separate blast north of Iraqi capital


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A car bomber targets a recruitment center in Baghdad.

A look at the effort to catch the last 12 of the 55 most-wanted Iraqis.

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BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- At least 35 people were killed and 145 others wounded Thursday morning in Baghdad when an apparent suicide car bomber targeted an Iraqi army recruitment center, the Iraqi Health Ministry said.

Visiting the scene of the blast, interim Iraqi Prime Minister Iyad Allawi vowed his people would prevail in the face of mounting violence before the June 30 political handover from the United States.

"This is an escalation that we have been expecting," Allawi said. "The government of Iraq is determined to confront the enemies."

Interim Defense Minister Hazem Shalan al-Khuzaei said that "in the next few days, we will chase [the insurgents] ... from house to house and from street to street, by all means available."

None of the 175 would-be recruits lined up inside the facility's gate was killed or injured, and there weren't any American or Iraqi army casualties, said U.S. Col. Mike Murray of the 1st Cavalry Division, crediting a boost in security after a similar attack a month ago.

A white sport utility vehicle -- apparently packed with artillery rounds -- detonated outside the Iraqi Civil Defense Corps center, Murray said.

Most of the wounded were on a bus traveling near the vehicle when it exploded around 9 a.m. (1 a.m. ET), he said.

Murray said the casualties were "innocent civilians that just happened to be on the street when this bomb went off."

"This clearly again was an attack that hurt the Iraqi people," he said.

In further violence Thursday north of Baghdad, a blast killed six members of the Iraqi Civil Defense Corps and wounded four others, the U.S. military said.

A vehicle-borne bomb was detonated in Yethrib, a city east of Balad, a U.S. military official said. Soldiers set up checkpoints in the area and are working with Iraqi officials to investigate.

The military did not have any reports on civilian casualties, but Iraqi police in Tikrit indicated there were some.

Al-Zarqawi suspected

In the face of the latest strikes, Iraq's interim interior minister said he believes insurgent leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi could be behind Thursday's deadly car bombing in Baghdad.

Al-Zarqawi is a Jordanian-born Islamic militant whom U.S. officials have said has close ties to al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden.

U.S. sources have said al-Zarqawi has claimed responsibility for a string of attacks on American troops, Iraqi civilians and others, including the August 2003 bombing of U.N. headquarters in Baghdad.

They also blame him for the videotaped beheading of American businessman Nicholas Berg in May, and the U.S. government has put a $10 million price on his head.

"I think there are some links with al-Zarqawi," said Falah al-Nakib, the interim interior minister.

Al-Nakib said that an al-Zarqawi aide has been in custody for more than two or three days, but he declined to elaborate.

He said he is confident that bombers involved in suicide attacks are not Iraqis. "We have a very good indication they came from abroad," he said.

Al-Nakib said a declaration of martial law would be considered if more actions such as Thursday's Baghdad bombing continue.

Al-Zarqawi and members of his organization may be hiding in the Sunni Muslim stronghold of Fallujah, west of Baghdad, a senior Pentagon official said.

Hostages released

Three foreigners taken hostage in Iraq, including nationals from Egypt, Turkey and Lebanon, were freed Thursday.

Two truck drivers kidnapped two weeks ago -- Bulent Yanik, a Turk, and Victor Tawfik Gerges, an Egyptian -- were released from custody near Fallujah and driven to the Turkish embassy in Baghdad, Turkish media reported. News footage aired Thursday showed images of the freed men.

Also, a Lebanese hostage was released unharmed Thursday evening, diplomatic sources in Baghdad said.

On Wednesday, another Lebanese hostage, Habib Khalil Sammour, who had been shown on video that aired on Al-Arabiya Monday, had also been released

Thursday night, Egyptian TV interviewed Gerges' wife, who said that she had talked to him and that he was on his way to Kuwait.

After Yanik and Gerges were abducted earlier in June, news footage showed the men in captivity. They identified themselves while they were surrounded by masked gunmen, and the abductors accused them of collaborating with the coalition.

Both men said on tape they transported goods from Kuwait to the U.S. military in Iraq.

Other developments

  • Britain will send an extra 270 troops to Iraq as part of a rotation of forces based there, the British Ministry of Defense said. The increase will bring the British deployment to about 9,200 troops.
  • A Hungarian soldier was killed and another wounded Thursday in an explosion south of Baghdad, said an official at the Hungarian Embassy in Baghdad. The wounded soldier was listed in good condition after the blast. The fatality is the first in Iraq for the Hungarians, who have a 300-person contingent in the country.
  • Saboteurs have attacked oil targets in the northern and southern parts of Iraq this week. The key southern pipeline in the Persian Gulf was attacked, knocking out export of oil through Iraq's two offshore terminals. There were reports that the same key pipeline was hit again Wednesday.
  • Ghazi Talabani, a top oilfield security official in northern Iraq, was killed Wednesday in Kirkuk as he left his home for work, and his driver was wounded, a police source said. The victim was the cousin of Jalal Talabani, leader of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan and a member of disbanded Iraqi Governing Council.
  • CNN's Pierre Bairin, Kevin Flower, Mike Mount and Brent Sadler contributed to this report.


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