- The Washington Times - Monday, January 3, 2005

BAGHDAD — Terrorists pressed their bloody campaign to sabotage Iraq’s Jan. 30 elections with three car bombs and a roadside attack yesterday — one near the prime minister’s party headquarters in Baghdad and others targeting Iraqi troops and a U.S. security company.

At least 16 persons were killed, bringing the toll over two days to about 50.

Iraqi Defense Minister Hazem Shaalan, meanwhile, traveled to Egypt to seek help in getting Iraq’s Sunni Muslim minority to take part in the elections. Leaders of the Sunni community, about 20 percent of Iraqis, say the country is far too unsafe to hold the vote.

Mr. Shaalan suggested that if Sunnis agreed to participate, the vote could be postponed by a few weeks to give them time to prepare. Iraq’s Sunni areas, mostly surrounding Baghdad, have seen some of the worst violence in recent weeks.

But Fareed Ayar, a spokesman for Iraq’s Independent Electoral Commission, said the panel “is still working on holding the elections on schedule.”

Late yesterday afternoon, a suicide bomber plowed his car into a sport utility vehicle in a convoy that had just left the green zone, the heavily fortified area in the heart of Baghdad that houses the U.S. Embassy and Iraqi government offices.

U.S. Embassy spokesman Bob Callahan said the convoy was carrying employees of the New York-based risk consulting group Kroll Inc. An Associated Press photographer saw three bodies burning inside the wrecked vehicle. A Kroll spokesman said the company was investigating.

The checkpoint is the main green zone exit for trips to Baghdad International Airport west of the city, and American contractors and diplomats commonly make the journey along the dangerous airport road in SUVs.

Earlier in the day, an explosive-laden car blew up when the driver rammed a checkpoint outside the offices of interim Prime Minister Iyad Allawi’s National Accord party. Two police officers, a civilian and the driver died, and 25 persons were wounded. Witnesses said machine-gun fire broke out after the explosion, which set fire to three police vehicles.

Mr. Allawi, a secular member of Iraq’s Shi’ite Muslim majority, was not at the building when the blast occurred, his aides said. The Ansar al-Sunnah Army — known for numerous deadly attacks on U.S. troops, Iraqi forces and politicians — took responsibility for the strike.

After the attack, Iraq’s intelligence chief said there were more insurgents and sympathizers in Iraq than U.S. forces to fight them.

“I think the resistance is bigger than the U.S. military in Iraq. I think the resistance is more than 200,000 people,” Gen. Mohamed Abdullah Shahwani told Agence France-Presse.

There are 150,000 U.S. troops in Iraq, more than 1,300 of which have been killed.

A roadside bomb in Saddam Hussein’s hometown of Tikrit killed at least six Iraqi national guardsmen and wounded four, police said.

In Balad, about 50 miles north of the capital, a suicide car bomber killed four Iraqi soldiers and wounded 14, U.S. military spokesman Neal E. O’Brien said.

“Anti-Iraqi forces continue to target the Iraqi national guard” because the force is creating conditions for “successful elections,” he said.

An Iraqi police officer was killed and two other police officers were woundedwhen a beheaded, booby-trapped corpse exploded in the northern city of Mosul as “Iraqi police officers secured the site and attempted to search the remains in order to identify the body,” a government statement said. It was not clear when the incident happened.

“This is another example of how the criminals and terrorists — attempting to thwart Iraq’s efforts to conduct free and fair elections — have no regard for their fellow countrymen,” the government said.

The attacks followed attacks Sunday that killed more than 30 people. The worst was a suicide car bombing of a bus full of Iraqi national guardsmenthat killed 22 soldiers and the driver.

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