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Iraq Transition

Insurgent attacks kill at least 43 in Iraq

Al-Sadr, other clerics join forces to combat sectarian violence

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BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- A series of car bombings and other attacks in Iraq on Monday killed at least 43 people and wounded dozens, Iraqi officials said.

Also Monday, the U.S. military announced the deaths of four American troops in three separate incidents a day earlier.

Two car bombs killed at least 15 civilians and wounded at least 20 Monday night in the northern city of Tal Afar, a government official told CNN.

Car bombs also struck two Shiite Muslim areas Monday in Iraq, killing at least 12 people and wounding more than 130 at a Baghdad restaurant and a mosque south of the capital.

The Tal Afar attack, which happened about 7 p.m., targeted a tribal gathering at the home of Sheik Hassan Bakdash, who was celebrating his surviving an assassination attempt a couple of days ago, said Khosra Goran, deputy governor of Nineveh province.

He described Bakdash as one of the most influential figures in the region. The Bakdash tribe is Shiite and is allied with Kurdish parties, mainly the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, he said.

Two car bombs exploded near the site of the gathering, with the majority of the casualties coming in the second detonation, Goran said. It was not immediately known if they were set off by suicide bombers.

He said the incident occurred in the Hay Al-Mualimeed neighborhood of Tal Afar.

The two bombs exploded three minutes apart, and 15 vehicles in the vicinity were damaged, a general with the local joint coordination center told CNN.

A doctor at a hospital in Mosul told CNN that eight of the critically wounded were being transferred to his hospital from the Tal Afar hospital, which has limited capabilities.

Tal Afar is about 150 kilometers (93 miles) east of the Syrian border and 100 kilometers southwest of Mosul.

Last month, a number of mourners were killed when a car bomb went off during the burial of a member of the Bakdash tribe who had been assassinated.

Shiite areas hit

A blast outside the Shiite mosque in Mahmudiya's al-Jazair neighborhood south of Baghdad killed two people and wounded 22 others, including 11 children, police said.

Authorities said people may be trapped in the rubble and casualties may rise. A nearby house also was destroyed.

Earlier Monday, a bomb exploded outside a popular eatery in a Shiite area of Baghdad, killing at least 10 Iraqis and wounding more than 110 others, an Iraqi emergency police official said.

The blast caused major structural damage to the Habyibna restaurant outside the Sadr City neighborhood and destroyed 16 cars, police said.

The official said police suspect sectarian violence, because most of the diners were followers of militant Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr.

Police believe the explosives were in a parked Kia sedan. The wounded were taken to five area hospitals.

Also Monday, gunmen killed an adviser to the office of Iraqi transitional Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari in central Baghdad, authorities said.

The adviser, Maj. Gen. Wael al-Rubaie, and his driver died in a drive-by shooting on a main thoroughfare, police said.

The Iraqi Ministry of State for National Security Affairs said al-Rubaie was "assassinated by the treacherous and criminal hand of terrorism while on his way to work."

Another high-ranking Iraqi government official died Sunday in a drive-by shooting.

Ali Mossa Selman, director general of the Trade Ministry's Commercial and Financial Control Department, was en route to work when attackers opened fire on his car in western Baghdad, police said.

The assassins also killed Selman's driver, police said.

Al-Sadr vows to end tensions

Al-Sadr has joined with other Shiite and Sunni Muslim representatives to search for a way to end the country's sectarian violence, an official with Sadr's office said Monday.

Al-Sadr has spoken with Sheikh Harith al-Dhari, leader of the Muslim Scholars Association, and Sayyid Abd al-Aziz al-Hakim, chairman of the Supreme Council of the Islamic Revolution, said the spokesman, Sheikh Abd al-Hadi Darraji.

The three leaders agreed to form councils to search for a peaceful solution and to discuss accusations of tit-for-tat killings traded between Sunni and Shiite groups.

Darraji said the first meeting would take place in a few days.

Four prominent Sunni imams have been assassinated, and a number of them arrested in recent days, prompting a three-day Sunni mosque strike set to end Monday evening.

Sheik Abd al-Ghaffour al-Samaraie, a member of the Muslim Scholars Association, said the Iraqi government has released "a significant number" of the imams arrested.

The Sunnis, a minority group in Iraq, held power under Saddam Hussein. Most Sunnis stayed away from polling places during the January 30 election. Much of the insurgency is taking place in the so-called Sunni Triangle, west of Baghdad.

The majority-Shiite United Iraqi Alliance and the Kurdish bloc placed first and second, respectively, in the election. After months of negotiations, however, several minister posts have been given to Sunnis.

Other developments

  • In an attempt to limit insurgent activity, U.S. soldiers and Iraqi security forces launched an operation on Sunday in western Baghdad, detaining a number of suspected terrorists, a U.S. military statement said. The suspects face questioning, the statement said.
  • A trio of suicide bombers targeted a U.S.-led coalition base Monday in Samarra, north of Baghdad, wounding three American soldiers, an Army spokesman said. Maj. Richard Goldenberg said two car bombs exploded at the perimeter of the base, killing two drivers. The third attacker blew himself up when he detonated his vest.
  • A suicide car bomber killed five members of a security team traveling with the convoy of a Patriotic Union of Kurdistan official on Monday, police said. Eight civilians were wounded in the attack near Tuz Khurmatu, south of the northern city of Kirkuk, police said.
  • On Sunday, two insurgent attacks on U.S. forces in Mosul killed three soldiers and wounded a fourth, the military said. Another U.S. soldier died Sunday when a car bomb exploded near an Army patrol north of the north-central city of Tikrit, the military said. Since the start of the war in 2003, 1,635 U.S. troops have died in Iraq.
  • Three Romanian journalists and their Iraqi-American translator were freed after nearly two months in captivity, a spokesman for Romania's president said Sunday. They were kidnapped March 28. (Full story)
  • CNN's Enes Dulami, Kevin Flower and Mohammed Tawfeeq contributed to this report.

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