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Iraq Transition

Arrests in deadly Baghdad bombings

A least 43 killed, 88 wounded in 'coordinated attacks'

The car bombs damaged at least 22 vehicles, police said.


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BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- Iraqi police arrested four people in connection with a string of car bombings Wednesday morning that killed at least 43 people and wounded 88 in central Baghdad, the Transportation Ministry said.

The blasts came as transitional governmental officials worked to complete a new constitution, which lawmakers hope will help produce stability in the volatile country.

The attacks began about 7:45 a.m. (11:45 p.m. ET), when a car bomb exploded outside of the al-Nahda bus terminal, police said. A second car bomb exploded about 10 minutes later.

Casualties were rushed to the al-Kindi Hospital, where a third explosion was reported a short time later.

Video from the scene showed the smoldering wreckage of a vehicle near two buses, but black smoke obscured much of the view. Iraqi police said 22 vehicles were damaged.

There have been no claims of responsibility for the attacks.

Gen. Richard Myers, the outgoing chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, deplored the attacks in remarks to reporters with Iraqi President Jalal Talabani.

"This morning, unfortunately, we saw the challenges that Iraqi citizens are up against. We saw horrific car bombs of the worst kind, attacking innocent men, women and children," said Myers, who was in Iraq to meet with the country's leaders and visit U.S. troops.

He described the bombings as "behavior that is absolutely uncivilized by any standard" and added that the attacks amounted to "indiscriminate murder of those men, women and children -- Sunni, Shia and Kurd."

Myers said he assured Talabani "that the United States will stay with you, with the Iraqi people, until this mission is finished."

In New York, U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan's spokesman issued a statement saying Annan was "appalled by the bombings."

"He strongly condemns these attacks, which appear to have been coordinated to hurt as many innocent civilians as possible, including by obstructing medical access in violation of all humanitarian principles," the statement said.

In other violence, a roadside bomb exploded Wednesday morning in eastern Baghdad as a car carrying three members of the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq drove past.

The blast killed one member of the powerful Shiite group and wounded the other two.

The U.S. military on Wednesday said insurgents attacked a Task Force Baghdad patrol in the center of the capital at 4 a.m. on Tuesday.

A statement said the attack sparked fighting that resulted in "an undetermined number of civilian casualties."

"American helicopters were brought in and engaged the terrorists," the statement said.

Iraqi police reported that 26 day laborers in Baghdad were wounded during U.S. fire from helicopters about the same time. It was unclear whether it was the same incident.

Myers cites 'progress'

The draft constitution had been scheduled for completion by Monday, but lawmakers missed the deadline and decided to continue their work for seven days.

U.S. officials -- who had long stressed the importance of meeting the deadline -- downplayed the delay and hailed Iraqi's efforts to complete the document. (Full story)

The completed document is to be placed before voters in a referendum by October 15. Pending approval, Iraq would then hold an election for a permanent government by the end of the year.

Difficult issues in constitutional negotiations include the relationship of the federal government and the regions, the sharing of oil revenues, and the roles of Islam and women.

Myers said he was impressed that the lawmakers working on the document and pushing back the deadline faithfully followed the transitional law.

And, the general said, he thought the committee was making strides toward meeting Monday's new deadline.

Commenting on troop levels for coming elections, Myers indicated that the military will do what it has to do to provide security, as it did in the run-up to the January 30 transitional assembly elections. However, he would not provide numbers.

He said he discussed political, economic and security issues with Talabani. "I think on all fronts we continue to see progress," Myers said.

Myers said Iraqi participation in the January election was a clear message to the militants conducting attacks and said voters will make themselves heard again later in the year.

Myers will be replaced October 1 by Gen. Peter Pace.

Other developments

  • Talabani assigned Vice President Adil Abdul Mahdi to review the executions of three convicted criminals in Wasit province, south of Baghdad, a presidential news release said. They had been convicted of rape, robbery and other criminal actions, the release said. These are the first such death penalty warrants issued since the Saddam Hussein regime.
  • The U.S. military on Wednesday reported two more American troop deaths earlier this week; one in southwestern Baghdad and the other in Mosul. The number of U.S. troops killed in Iraq since the war started is 1,857, including 59 this month.
  • An International Monetary Fund review found that insurgent violence is hurting the country's economic prospects and has tied up funds meant for reconstruction, according to Reuters. The IMF issued a $436 million emergency loan to help rebuild Iraq. (Full story)
  • Seven hundred parachute infantry troops from the 82nd Airborne Division at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, have received deployment orders for Iraq and are expected to arrive there within about 30 days, military officials said. The officials told CNN the troops will provide security in and around Abu Ghraib prison on the west edge of Baghdad and help with security for a new detention facility being opened next month in As Sulamaniya, northeast of Baghdad.
  • CNN's Barbara Starr, Aneesh Raman, Cal Perry and Enes Dulami contributed to this report.

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