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Iraq Transition

Suicide bombing kills at least 17 in Tal Afar

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Iraqi Prime Minister-designate Nuri al-Maliki says Tuesday that most Cabinet posts have been filled.

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BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- A suicide car bomb killed at least 17 people and wounded 35 others Tuesday in the northern Iraqi city of Tal Afar, Iraqi police officials said.

The blast took place at a market in the Shiite Muslim neighborhood of Wahda about 7:30 p.m. (11:30 a.m. ET), said Kahsro Goran, deputy governor of Nineveh province.

Police initially reported the blast had targeted a police station.

Goran said women and children were among the dead.

Tal Afar is near the Syrian border, about 45 miles (72 kilometers) west of Mosul. (Map)

Progress cited on Cabinet

More than 90 percent of Iraqi Cabinet posts have been filled and a four-year national unity administration could be completed in a few days' time, the prime minister-designate said Tuesday.

Two top positions -- the Interior and Defense ministries -- will be occupied by "independent candidates" and not divvied out to someone put up by a particular political bloc, said Nuri al-Maliki, the Shiite politician tapped to be prime minister and asked to prepare a government that parliament must approve.

Among the ministries that have not been filled are Trade and Transportation, al-Maliki said.

"I hope that by the end of this week we will complete the process of submitting the Cabinet to the Iraqi parliament to vote for it," he said at a press conference in Baghdad.

Al-Maliki said the positions are being filled by consensus among lawmakers and political blocs. The major groups include the Shiite-led United Iraqi Alliance, the Sunni-led Iraqi Accord Front, the Kurdish alliance and a secular-oriented bloc.

Al-Maliki said the goal is to form a "strong," "efficient" government of national unity with a "wide base to face the coming challenges" in the diverse country -- including ethnic groups such as Arabs, Kurds and Turkmens; religions such as Shiite, Sunni, Christian and Yazidi; secularists; and mixtures of all of these groups.

Iraqi lawmakers aren't disclosing details of nominees for Cabinet seats until leaders of the political blocs hash out the remaining posts.

"Maybe today or tomorrow we will complete the formation of the government because we've already completed the majority of the work," he said, adding that "just a few" positions remain unfilled.

The Cabinet list must be presented to parliament, the 275-member Council of Representatives, by May 22, a deadline stipulated by the Iraqi Constitution. There are expected to be more than three dozen ministries in the government.

The completion of a government so soon would be swift, efficient work for a group of lawmakers who have struggled and squabbled through extended delays.

It has been nearly five months since the December 15 parliamentary elections, and prolonged disagreement over the first choice of a prime minister delayed the formation of a government. Al-Maliki finally was selected a little more than two weeks ago as prime minister.

The Bush administration, led by Zalmay Khalilzad, U.S. ambassador to Iraq, and U.S. lawmakers have exhorted the Iraqis to find compromise.

"Iraq is strategically heading in the right direction now," Khalilzad said Tuesday, according to Reuters.

The ambassador said it was important that members of the Cabinet not be influenced by any of the armed religious groups, Reuters reported.

"I think there is broad agreement that the Minister of Defense and the Minister of Interior have to be independent people who are unifiers and who do not have ties to militias and are above politics," Reuters quoted him as saying.

Other developments

  • Police found 14 bodies on Tuesday, including three beheaded bodies clad in Iraqi military uniforms. The decapitated bodies and another corpse, which had been shot in the head, were discovered in Sawayra, about 30 miles (48 kilometers) south of Baghdad. Ten other bodies were found across the capital. They all had been shot in the head.
  • An American soldier was killed Monday in a roadside bombing in eastern Baghdad, the U.S. military said Tuesday. Since the U.S.-led invasion in 2003, 2,423 U.S. military troops and civilians have been killed in the Iraq war.
  • The Iraqi Interior Ministry said Tuesday it is searching for a security guard wanted in connection with an explosion this week at a bomb-making workshop in a Baghdad mosque. One person was killed and two others wounded in the blast. An arrest warrant has been issued for the chief of the security guards, who had a basement office near the site of the blast.
  • Gunmen on Tuesday killed Mouhaiman Mahmoud Abbod, a judge at the Adhamiya civil court, in Baghdad's Hamra neighborhood. Also Tuesday, gunmen killed a bakery worker in southern Baghdad's Dora neighborhood.
  • CNN's Mohammed Tawfeeq contributed to this report.

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