- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 17, 2007

BAGHDAD - Dozens of Shiite villagers in the north were massacred by Sunni extremists, two officials said today, while a car bomb exploded across the street from the Iranian Embassy in the heart of Baghdad and killed four civilians.

Meanwhile, Shiite legislators loyal to anti-U.S. cleric Muqtada al-Sadr decided to end their five-week boycott of parliament, one of their leaders said. The Shiite protest along with a separate Sunni boycott had blocked work on key benchmark legislation demanded by the U.S.

Police Col. Ragheb Radhi al-Omairi said 29 members of a Shiite tribe were massacred overnight in Diyala province when dozens of suspected Sunni gunmen raided their village near Muqdadiyah, about 60 miles northeast of Baghdad. The dead included four women, al-Omairi said.

Al-Omairi said he had not seen the bodies. Police said some of the bodies were recovered, and that some of the gunmen wore military clothing.

The village is in the same province as Baqouba, where fighting escalated Tuesday. U.S. and Iraqi troops regained control of western Baqouba last month, but al-Qaida and other Sunni insurgent elements remain active in the rest of the city. The al-Qaida front Islamic State of Iraq had declared Baqouba its capital.

Today, U.S. soldiers pushed into the insurgent-controlled part of Baqouba backed by helicopters and at least one jet. Sunni imams in four mosques used loudspeakers to call on their followers to fight the Americans, residents said by telephone.

Separately, the U.S. military said the most wanted al-Qaida in Iraq figure south of Baghdad was killed last weekend by a precision-guided artillery round.

Abu Jurah, an al-Qaida cell leader, died Saturday in the Arab Jabour area just south of the city after U.S. troops received word that he and 14 others were meeting at a house there, a U.S. statement said.

In Baghdad, the deadliest bombing occurred when a suicide driver detonated his vehicle near an Iraqi army patrol in Zayouna, a mostly Shiite area of eastern Baghdad, killing 10 people, including six civilians, police said.

The blast near the Iranian Embassy occurred in late morning a few hundred yards north of the U.S.-controlled Green Zone, sending a huge cloud of black smoke over the city. Three civilians also were wounded, said police.

All the Baghdad police officers spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to release information.

Also today, the bodies of two security guards were found in the western Baghdad neighborhood of Mansour, two days after they were kidnapped from the office of a cell phone company where they worked, police said.

U.S. forces have launched offensives around the Iraqi capital to try to halt the flow of bombs and fighters into the city.

The U.S. command said American soldiers had killed about a dozen insurgents during a three-hour gunfight yesterday in Fadhil, a Sunni enclave in the center of the city. The battle began when paratroopers from the 82nd Airborne Division came under fire from the Islamic Bank building, the military said.

One U.S. trooper was slightly wounded, the U.S. said.

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