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Iraq Transition

Suicide car bomber hits Iraqi worshippers

Third day of escalating violence across country


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BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- More than 20 Iraqis have been killed in a third day of increasing violence in Baghdad and across the country.

Over 200 people have died in a series of bombings and shootings over the last three days. At least 400 have been injured in the same period.

Ten Iraqis were killed and 21 were wounded Friday afternoon when a suicide car bomb was detonated outside a Shiite mosque in Tuz, just outside the northern Iraqi city of Kirkuk.

Maj. Gen. Anwar Amin of the Iraqi Army said soldiers stopped a second attack targeting worshippers at the same mosque.

A would-be suicide bomber was captured and initial reports indicated he was a non-Iraqi Arab, Amin said.

The bombing followed a series of early morning attacks that killed at least 12 people including a Muslim cleric and a mayor, police said.

A Shiite imam, Sheikh Fadhil al-Lami, was killed around 8:30 a.m. (12:30 a.m. ET) when gunmen opened fire on his car on the Qanant highway in the east of the capital. Al-Lami was the imam of a mosque in the Sadr City district of Baghdad.

Less than an hour earlier, an employee of the Transportation Ministry was killed and two others were wounded in the capital when armed men opened fire on their car.

They had been on their way to work at about 7:45 a.m.

Minutes earlier, two day laborers were killed and a dozen more were wounded by gunmen as they were waiting to be picked up for work in the New Baghdad section in the east of the capital.

In Iskandariya, about 30 miles (45 kilometers) south of Baghdad, gunmen stormed the residence of the district mayor Amer Mohammad al-Khafaji, killing him and four of his bodyguards.

Two other bodyguards were wounded in the attack after 1 a.m.

A car bomb was detonated near a police patrol about three miles away in the neighboring suburb of al-Hashwe at around 9:45 a.m.

Three police were killed and six more were hurt in the attack.

Late on Friday, Baghdad emergency police said a home-made bomb went off at 6 p.m. in southern Baghdad, killing one Iraqi police commando and one civilian. Three commandos and two civilians were wounded.

Wednesday became one of the bloodiest days since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion when at least 10 car bombs were exploded in Baghdad and a number of towns.

Violence continued Thursday with four suicide car bombings in Baghdad, a gun attack on pilgrims in Karbala and roadside blasts in the northern cities of Mosul and Kirkuk.

The group al Qaeda in Iraq purportedly claimed responsibility for Wednesday's strikes, saying they were in retaliation for the U.S.-Iraqi offensive to root out insurgents in the northern city of Tal Afar.

A U.S. military official said the surge in violence was expected in the weeks leading up to the referendum on the country's draft constitution, which is scheduled for October 15.

Iraq's President Jalal Talabani asked the world for help in defeating terrorism in his country, in a speech to the United Nations Thursday.

Air attacks

U.S. warplanes struck insurgent targets in the western Al Anbar province late Thursday and early Friday, killing at least nine "terrorists," statements from the U.S. military said.

Military jets bombed an abandoned school in Karabila being used by al Qaeda in Iraq to carry out attacks against coalition forces and residents, the U.S. Marine 2nd Division said said.

"Two AV8-B Harrier jets destroyed the building using precision-guided 500-pound bombs," the Marines said.

"Multiple secondary explosions were observed by coalition forces after the strike. Nine terrorists were confirmed killed and one vehicle destroyed."

Marines based near Karabila have said there has been an escalation in fighting between al Qaeda-linked groups and local tribes, in an apparent bid to gain control of the city.

Early Friday, U.S. planes destroyed a complex south of Haditha said to have been used by al Qaeda in Iraq to build car bombs.

Coalition forces first raided the 12-building compound after receiving information from local residents, but found no insurgents, the military said.

"After searching the complex, coalition forces found that three of the buildings were used to store weapons and explosives, as well as to manufacture VBIEDs [vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices or car bombs]," a military statement said.

CNN's Arwa Damon and Enes Dulami contributed to this report.

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