- - Tuesday, July 31, 2012

IRAQ

BAGHDAD — Two cars exploded within five minutes of each other Tuesday, killing 20 people and wounding 57 in an upscale Shiite neighborhood in Iraq’s capital, officials said.

The afternoon’s double blast sent plumes of black smoke over Karradah, a busy shopping district across the Tigris River from the Green Zone. The sounds of gunshots could be heard from blocks away.

The violence brought the July death toll to 244 people killed in shootings and bombings in al Qaeda attacks, as the terror group seeks to take advantage of political instability in Iraq and move into areas it was forced out of before the U.S. military left the country in December.

Tuesday’s explosions came in the middle of Baghdad’s rush-hour as streets were clogged with people heading home from work.

Police said the first car blew up near a restaurant at a Karradah square, and down the street from a police station and a security checkpoint. Six people were killed and 21 wounded.

Five minutes later, the second car blew up outside a passport office a few miles away, killing 14 and injuring 36.

The attack also came about 400 yards from a major Interior Ministry headquarters.

Earlier this month, al Qaeda’s leader in Iraq threatened to push back into areas the group was driven out of after sectarian fighting peaked in 2007.

ISRAEL

Draft exemptions to endfor ultra-Orthodox men

JERUSALEM — Israel’s defense minister has ruled that ultra-Orthodox Jewish men will be drafted into the military like most other Israelis — but it could take time.

Ehud Barak appeared to be buying time on the politically explosive order by giving the military a month to craft a plan to implement it.

Mr. Barak issued the order hours before a law that exempts tens of thousands of ultra-Orthodox men from serving was due to expire.

The government is struggling to find a formula to end the exemptions but has been unable to bridge differences between religious and secular parties in the ruling coalition.

Some ultra-Orthodox men vowed Tuesday to go to jail rather than cut short their religious studies to serve. Others sounded skeptical that Mr. Barak would enforce the law.

YEMEN

Police loyal to ex-leader storm Interior Ministry

SANAA — Several police officers were killed or wounded when police loyal to Yemen’s ousted president stormed the Interior Ministry in the capital, Sanaa, setting off clashes with troops guarding the building, a security official said.

The official said the attack followed a demonstration outside the ministry by police officers loyal to former President Ali Abdullah Saleh, who was ousted after a yearlong popular uprising. The demonstrators accused the current government of corruption.

The official said Mr. Saleh’s nephew, Yahia Mohammed Abdullah Saleh, who heads the Central Security forces, sent reinforcements to the rally, which then attacked the building.

The official said there were casualties but had no details.

He said the anti-government police officers and Saleh loyalists were in control of the ministry building and nearby streets.

He spoke on condition of anonymity in line with regulations.

• From wire dispatches and staff reports