- The Washington Times - Sunday, June 8, 2008

BAGHDAD (AP) - A suicide car bomb and another car packed with explosives targeted Iraqi police patrols Saturday on opposite sides of Baghdad, killing at least six people, police said.

The suicide attacker rammed into a police patrol mid-afternoon in Nisoor Square on the capital’s west side, killing a civilian and a policeman, police said. Another five people were wounded.

The other explosion took place nearly simultaneously across town at a crowded bus stop where passengers were lining up to catch rides to eastern Shi’ite neighborhoods, though police said the target was the passing convoy of a top Iraqi police general.

Four people were killed and 18 wounded, Brig. Gen. Nazar Majeed among them, said an officer on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to media. Three of the dead were policemen, he said.

The area includes shops that sell spare auto parts and tires, and is frequently used as a shortcut for Interior Ministry convoys trying to avoid traffic jams on another main street leading to government buildings, the officer said.

Tareq Salman, who owns a tea stall nearby, said he heard a huge explosion and then saw smoke spewing from the bus station.

“I saw several passengers running and several minibuses on fire. I saw wounded men screaming for help and police cars taking some seriously wounded to the hospital,” 54-year-old Salman said. “There were blood stains and one burned body.”

“Most of my tea cups were broken and some car parts shops were damaged,” he said.

Such blasts - once a somber but daily feature of life in Iraq’s capital - have become far less frequent since a U.S. troop buildup last year. A truck loaded with rockets exploded Wednesday in northeast Baghdad, killing 18 people in the deadliest single blast in more than two months.

In Mosul, provincial Gov. Duraid Kashmola escaped assassination Saturday when gunmen attacked his convoy in the western part of the city. One of the vehicles was damaged in the attack, but there were no casualties, the provincial press office said.

Two policemen were killed Saturday evening in a drive-by shooting in downtown Mosul, police said. Five people including three civilian bystanders were wounded.

Mosul is believed to be one of the last urban strongholds of al-Qaeda in Iraq, and U.S. and Iraqi forces have fought fierce battles against militants there in recent months.

The U.S. military said it killed four suspected militants, captured five others and destroyed two safehouses Saturday southwest of the city.

American soldiers called in airstrikes and killed the four men after coming under small-arms fire, a military statement said. They also destroyed two buildings filled with weapons, ammunition and graffiti indicating they were used for foreign militants, it said.

Five men were captured Saturday in a separate raid in Mosul, including two accused of conspiring with senior al-Qaeda in Iraq leaders in the city, the military said.

Meanwhile, Iraqi police said they found five bodies in a mass grave south of Baghdad. The partly decomposed bodies were believed to be those of Iraqi soldiers, with military uniforms and boots, an officer said on condition of anonymity because an investigation was ongoing.

An Iraqi military outpost is close to where the grave was found in the al-Wahda village about 23 miles south of the capital, the officer said. The U.S. military had no immediate confirmation of the find.

Also Saturday, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s Dawa party said it had expelled his predecessor, Ibrahim al-Jaafari, for setting up his own National Reform Party.

Al-Jaafari’s move was seen as a bid to reassert himself as part of a realignment of political forces in Iraq.

Followers of another former prime minister, Ayad Allawi, are in talks with Shi’ite and Sunni politicians to try to establish a new political movement to compete with the ruling coalition, dominated by Shi’ite religious parties.

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