- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 24, 2005

BAGHDAD — Terrorists detonated car bombs across Iraq yesterday, killing at least 43 Iraqis and wounding more than 140, while officials said the discovery of a car bomb ?factory? had reduced the ability of militants to stage more such attacks.

Enough explosives to make 70 car bombs were found in a raid, part of the biggest sweep in the capital to date, authorities said. The offensive has netted 300 terror suspects.

Also yesterday, gunmen assassinated a top national security official. The military said five U.S. troops were killed in roadside bombings and a vehicle accident.

The deadliest bombings occurred near the home of a community leader outside Mosul, killing at least 20 persons and injuring 20, Iraqi hospital and police officials said.

The explosions 50 miles west of the northern city may have been aimed at Hassan Baktash, a Shi’ite with close ties to the Kurdistan Democratic Party, said Mosul’s deputy governor, Khesro Goran.

Another car bomb exploded at a Baghdad restaurant popular with police, killing at least eight persons and wounding at least 80. The bomb went off at a time when police officers usually meet at the restaurant for lunch, said police Lt. Zaid Tarek.

?All these people were killed for no reason. What wrong did they do by being policemen or soldiers?? said restaurant owner Mshari Hassan.

South of Baghdad, a car bomb exploded outside a Shi’ite mosque shortly before evening prayers, killing at least 10 persons and injuring 30, authorities said.

Iraqi soldier Alaa Abdul-Mohsen said the suicide bomber attempted to drive his explosives-packed car into the mosque, but a protective sand barrier kept him away. Instead, the car rammed into an adjacent house and detonated.

Earlier, two carloads of gunmen killed Maj. Gen. Wael al-Rubaei, a top national security official, and his driver in Baghdad’s latest drive-by shooting.

Al Qaeda in Iraq, the group run by Jordanian-born terrorist mastermind Abu Musab Zarqawi, claimed responsibility for killing Gen. al-Rubaei in a statement posted on an Internet site used by the group.

A day earlier, Trade Ministry auditing office chief Ali Moussa was killed. Since April 27, a campaign against government and military officials has resulted in 18 assassinations, six attempted assassinations, three fatal kidnappings and one other abduction, according to an Associated Press count.

Authorities said they had made future attacks more difficult with the raid on what an aide to Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari described as a car bomb “factory.”

“They found sufficient bombs for 70 cars, a production line if you like,” spokesman Laith Kubba was quoted as saying by the London Daily Telegraph. “It was either the factory or one of the two factories that has caused the carnage in Baghdad.”

The raid was part of a joint offensive dubbed Operation Squeeze Play that involved seven Iraqi battalions backed by U.S. forces and was centered on western Baghdad’s Abu Ghraib district.

Iraqi security forces played lead roles in the operation, which appeared to be winding down yesterday. Mr. Kubba was upbeat about the results.

“In the past three months, there has been not only a passive attitude, but a retreat. Now we are pushing the balance back toward us,” he said. “We won’t clear up the capital in a month, but you will notice that this raid has made a difference.”

In other violence yesterday, a suicide bomber killed five persons and injured 13 when he drove an explosives-packed pickup truck into a crowd outside a municipal council office in Tuz Khormato, 55 miles south of Kirkuk, said police commander Lt. Gen. Sarhat Qader.

Two persons were killed and two were injured in Kirkuk when a mortar round landed on a house, police Capt. Farhad Talabani said.

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