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Iraq Transition

Three U.S. troops among 28 killed in Iraq

Italy differs with American conclusion on agent's shooting death

A car burns in Baghdad on Friday after several bombs exploded.
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Acts of terror

BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- A day after Iraq's new government began to take shape, car and roadside bombings killed at least 28 people, including three U.S. troops, and wounded 100 other people, officials said.

Most of Friday's bombings were in Baghdad, where 12 blasts went off in eight areas of the capital within a matter of hours.

Twenty-three Iraqi security troops died across the city and 31 others were wounded, authorities said. At least one civilian died and dozens more were wounded.

The attacks came as a purported message from terrorist leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi circulated on Web sites used by insurgents telling them to continue attacking U.S. and Iraqi forces. A U.S. intelligence official said the voice appeared to be al-Zarqawi's. (Full story)

Authorities said the attacks in Baghdad could have been much worse -- that insurgents had planned to kill a large number of Iraqis, but none of the bombs reached their intended targets, civilian meeting places and Iraqi police stations.

"The quick, decisive action of the Iraqi police and Iraqi army soldiers in the face of 12 separate attacks saved a lot of people's lives today," said Lt. Col. Clifford Kent, a spokesman for Task Force Baghdad.

The Baghdad bombing spree erupted around 8:15 a.m. when four suicide bombs exploded in a 15-minute span within a few hundred yards of each other in northern Baghdad, followed by eight more bombings over the next three hours.

Police said the death toll did not include the suicide bombers.

Rice: 'A difficult period'

In an interview with CNN Espanol, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice acknowledged "it is a difficult period in Iraq, but the Iraqi people have an opportunity to move from the brutal dictatorship of Saddam Hussein."

"When you look at what the Iraqi people faced under Saddam Hussein, their future is much brighter than it could ever have been had Saddam Hussein remained in power," she said.

The U.S. military took the unusual step of issuing a written statement about the violence.

According to the release, the United States wants to "reassure everyone back home" that the attacks do not appear to be directed at U.S. troops but against Iraqis. They appear to be tied to the announcement of Iraq's new government, the statement said.

On Thursday, Iraq's transitional National Assembly chose a new government following three months of political wrangling following historic elections. The list of Cabinet members has several vacancies, and at least five appointments are temporary. (Cabinet list)

The commander of the U.S. 3rd Infantry Division, assigned to the Baghdad area, said he wasn't surprised the attacks followed the Cabinet selection.

"We know that Zarqawi has been talking to insurgents here and inciting them toward more violence," said Maj. Gen. William Webster.

"We know that he planned to conduct additional attacks after the new government was announced. We believe this was connected directly to that."

Webster repeated the military's belief that such attacks represent the insurgency's frustrations. He also said intelligence is getting better, with more Iraqi civilians providing tips on the whereabouts of insurgents.

Deaths elsewhere Friday

In addition to the 24 people killed in Baghdad, three American soldiers died in car bomb attacks, the military said.

In one incident, two soldiers assigned to the 155th Brigade Combat Team, II Marine Expeditionary Force died when a car bomb exploded near Diyara, the Marines said. The Marines are based in Anbar province, west of Baghdad.

A car bomb also killed a U.S. soldier and wounded two others in northern Iraq near Taji, the U.S. military said.

The number of U.S. troops who have died in the Iraq war stands at 1,577, according to the military.

Insurgents also targeted an Iraqi border patrol car in the southern city of Basra. The driver was killed and two officers wounded in the attack, an Iraqi army officer said.

Italy, U.S. differ on shooting

U.S. and Italian officials said Friday that investigators from both countries differ about a checkpoint shooting that led to the death of an Italian security agent. (Full story)

The March 4 shooting death of Nicola Calipari strained relations between the United States and Italy, where the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq has never been popular with the public.

Two other people in the car also were wounded as the vehicle approached a temporary U.S. checkpoint.

Giuliana Sgrena, a reporter for an Italian newspaper who had just been released by abductors, has said American forces deliberately fired on the vehicle, driven by another Italian agent. Sgrena was wounded in the shoulder.

"The investigators did not arrive at shared final conclusions even though, after jointly examining the evidence, they did agree on facts, findings and recommendations on numerous issues," said a statement from State Department deputy spokesman Adam Ereli.

Ereli said no joint report would be issued.

On Monday, a Pentagon official said that the investigation had cleared the U.S. soldiers involved and they would face no disciplinary action.

Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi and U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said the next day that the investigation was not finished.

Other developments

  • A bomb killed one U.S. soldier and wounded four others Thursday near Hawija, about 150 miles north of Baghdad, the U.S. military said.
  • A week before Britain's general elections, Prime Minister Tony Blair authorized the release of a secret memo from the country's attorney general that Blair says supports his assertion that the Iraqi invasion was legal. Opposition party members said the document proves the opposite: that the war, led by the United States but heavily assisted by Britain and its troops, was not a lawful act. (Full story)
  • CNN's Caroline Faraj, Kevin Flower, Elise Labott, Octavia Nasr, Barbara Starr and Mohammed Tawfeeq contributed to this report.

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