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Iraq Transition

Suicide bomber kills 18 in Kirkuk

Mortar explodes near ceremony; U.S. ambassador safe

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Guards escort U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad, center, away soon after the mortar attack Tuesday in Tikrit.

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BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- A suicide bombing killed 18 people and wounded 28 others Tuesday in the northern city of Kirkuk, Iraqi police said.

Police said a grenade first killed an Iraqi police officer in central Kirkuk.

As police and civilians gathered in response to the attack, a car drove into the crowd and detonated, killing 17 people -- four of whom were police -- and wounding the others, including five police.

Earlier Tuesday, a mortar round exploded near officials attending a ceremony in Tikrit in which Americans were handing over a base to Iraqis, a senior U.S. military spokesman said. (Watch as the bombs explode -- 2:04)

No one was injured, the spokesman said.

The incident occurred as U.S. forces were returning a forward operating base called FOB Danger to the Iraqi government. The base consists of 1,000 acres of land and 18 palaces ordered built by ousted Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein, the official said.

Attending the ceremony were Zalmay Khalilzad, U.S. ambassador to Iraq, and Gen. George Casey, the top U.S. commander there.

The disruption was a "rather futile attempt to thwart progress that is being made," the senior military official said.

To date, 29 forward operating bases across the country have been handed back to the Iraqi government, the U.S. military said.

The centerpiece of the Tikrit palace complex is the presidential palace built by the former dictator for his mother, according to a statement by the U.S. military.

"It is the largest and most elaborate of the presidential sites built by Saddam Hussein," the statement said.

Shooting investigation

Two children were among the dead after a U.S. military patrol fired on a car near a American base Monday, said a police official in Baquba, which is north of Baghdad in Diyala province.

As many as four Iraqis were killed and five others wounded in the incident, which happened on the road between Baquba and Khalis, the official said.

A U.S. military spokesman in Baquba confirmed that U.S. forces did fire on a civilian vehicle but said that the vehicle did not heed warning shots to stop as it approached.

The spokesman said three people were killed and one injured. The circumstances are under investigation, the spokesman said.

He could not confirm whether children were killed.

U.S. soldiers killed

An American soldier was killed when a bomb blew up near his vehicle during combat operations Monday, a U.S. military statement said.

The statement said the soldier was assigned to the 2nd Marine Division, II Marine Expeditionary Force (Forward).

The attack took place near Habbaniya, about 43 miles (69 kilometers) west of Baghdad.

On Saturday, two Task Force Freedom soldiers were killed by small-arms fire while on patrol in the northern city of Mosul, the U.S. military said Tuesday.

The deaths are under investigation, the military added.

The number of American service members killed in the Iraq war stands at 2,097, according to the military.

Other developments

  • Iraqi leaders meeting in Cairo, Egypt, called for a timetable for the withdrawal of U.S.-led forces. A communiqué -- finalized by Shiite, Kurdish and Sunni leaders -- also recognized that Iraq's opposition has a "legitimate right of resistance." (Full story)
  • Five people were killed and 11 others wounded in car bomb attack Monday near a busy market in Kanaan, east of Baquba, said a police official with Baquba's information office. A U.S. military official said the parked car bomb probably was targeting an American military convoy but detonated just after the convoy passed by and harmed no one in it.
  • CNN's Arwa Damon contributed to this report.

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