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Two die in series of Baghdad bombings

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Iraqi soldiers on Wednesday inspect a car that exploded near the minister of higher education's convoy.

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BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- Bombers killed two people and wounded seven others Wednesday in Baghdad as Iraq's minister of higher education escaped unharmed in one of the attacks, Iraqi police said.

A bomb in a parked car hit the convoy of the minister, Sami al-Mudhaffar, in the Karrade neighborhood, officials said. One civilian was killed and three others wounded, including two of the minister's bodyguards.

Police said civilians apparently were the target of a second bomb, which killed one person in western Baghdad. Two other civilians were wounded.

A third blast struck near an Iraq police patrol in southern Baghdad, wounding two officers.

The explosions came a day after two bombs went off near a central Baghdad market in an apparently coordinated attack.

The first bomb went off near vendors selling religious accessories and the second struck emergency workers responding to the scene.

At least three people were killed and 20 others wounded, according to initial police reports.

U.S. drone drops from sky

An unmanned plane flying near Baghdad's most densely populated Shiite neighborhood made a parachute landing Tuesday night, the U.S. military said.

According to a military news release, controllers lost contact with the drone shortly after takeoff. The plane landed near Sadr City, where many Shiites are celebrating during the days leading up to the major holy day of Ashura, which falls on Thursday.

Neighborhood officials returned the craft to U.S.-led coalition and Iraqi forces Wednesday. The military was investigating.

U.S. and Iraqi forces have established tight security in places such as Karbala, Najaf and Sadr City in light of past violence during the Ashura period.

Last year, dozens died in attacks coinciding with the holy day. In 2004, more than 180 died when explosions in Baghdad and Karbala targeted Shiite pilgrims.

This year, Ashura follows parliamentary elections in which Shiites won a majority of seats in the 275-member parliament, and sectarian violence remains a major concern for politicians and police.

Ashura commemorates the seventh-century death of Hussein, a grandson of the Prophet Mohammed. Hussein's death in battle was one of the events that helped create the schism between Shiites and Sunnis, the two main Muslim religious movements.

Karbala, the site of Hussein's death, was filled Wednesday with an estimated 2 million pilgrims, Reuters reported.

"We have 8,000 police and soldiers spread through the city," police chief Brigadier Abdul-Razzaq al-Ta'ee told Reuters, adding that about 25 percent of the officers were dressed as civilians.

To honor Hussein's death, many pilgrims wear black and flog themselves with chains.

Navy to boost sailors in Iraq

The U.S. Navy will increase the number of sailors in Iraq to relieve the burden on U.S. soldiers, the top admiral said Tuesday.

Adm. Michael G. Mullen, chief of naval operations, said the Navy will add to its 4,000 sailors already operating in the country. Mullen was not specific about the number of new sailors, saying only it would be less than 12,000.

There are about 100,000 soldiers in the Iraq theater and about 40,000 troops from other military branches. (Full story)

Other developments

  • At least 700 people peacefully demonstrated Wednesday in Baquba, north of Baghdad, against the publication of cartoons depicting Mohammed in a Danish newspaper. One of the caricatures showed the prophet wearing a turban shaped as a bomb, sparking protests throughout the world. (Full story)
  • American and Iraqi soldiers have captured weapons and insurgent propaganda in western Iraq, the U.S. military said Tuesday. On Sunday, troops recovered some detonators for homemade bombs, rockets and launchers, 75 propaganda cassette tapes and video cameras, the military said.
  • A top Sunni Arab leader, Salih al-Mutlag, said he was able to reach an agreement with Interior Minister Bayan Jabr, a Shiite, to ease up on random sweeps and detentions. Some Sunnis say they have been mistreated during raids and in detention by the Iraqi police, which falls under the Interior Ministry's jurisdiction.
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