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Wave of attacks on security forces kill at least 44 in Iraq
Soldiers, police targeted as violence strikes 11 cities
Question of the Day
BAGHDAD (AP) — Insurgents killed at least 44 people in a wave of attacks against Iraqi security forces Sunday, gunning down soldiers at an army post and bombing police recruits waiting in line to apply for jobs, officials said.
The violence, which struck at least 11 cities and wounded nearly 240 people, highlighted militants' attempts to sow havoc in the country and undermine the government.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attacks, but security forces are a frequent target of al Qaeda's Iraq branch, which has vowed to reassert itself and take back areas it was forced from before U.S. troops withdrew from the country last year.
In Sunday's deadliest attack, gunmen stormed a small Iraqi army outpost in the town of Dujail before dawn, killing at least 10 soldiers and wounding eight more, according to police and hospital officials in the nearby city of Balad, about 50 miles north of Baghdad.
Hours later, a car bomb struck a group of police recruits waiting in line to apply for jobs with the state-run Northern Oil Co. outside the northern city of Kirkuk.
City police commander Brig. Gen. Sarhad Qadir said seven recruits were killed and 17 wounded. He said all the recruits were Sunni Muslims and blamed the early morning attack on al Qaeda.
The carnage stretched into the country's south, where bombs stuck to two parked cars exploded in the Shiite-dominated city of Nasiriyah, 200 miles southeast of Baghdad. The blasts were near the French Consulate and a local hotel in the city, although the consulate did not appear to be a target of the attack.
Also Sunday, Iraq's fugitive Sunni vice president was sentenced to death Sunday after a Baghdad court found him guilty of masterminding the killings of a lawyer and a government security official.
Tariq al-Hashemi, who has denied the allegations, fled the country after Iraq's Shiite-led government leveled the terrorism charges against him in December.
The politically charged case sparked a crisis in Iraq's government and has fueled Sunni Muslim and Kurdish resentment against Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, a Shiite who critics say is monopolizing power.
The Baghdad courtroom was silent Sunday as the presiding judge read out the verdict convicting Mr. al-Hashemi and his son-in-law of organizing the murders of a Shiite security official as well as a lawyer who had refused to help the vice president's allies in terrorism cases.
The court sentenced both men to death by hanging in absentia. They have 30 days to appeal the verdict.
The judge said Mr. al-Hashemi, who is currently in Turkey, was acquitted in a third case linked to the killing of a security officer because of a lack of evidence.
The case has fueled resentment among Iraq's Sunni minority, and Mr. al-Hashemi has dismissed the charges against him as a political vendetta pursued by his longtime rival, Mr. al-Maliki.
The charges against the vice president span the worst years of bloodshed that followed the 2003 U.S.-led invasion of Iraq as retaliatory sectarian attacks between Sunni and Shiite militants pushed the country to the brink of civil war.
Mr. al-Hashemi has claimed that his bodyguards were likely tortured or otherwise coerced into testifying against him.
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