- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 15, 2005

BAGHDAD — At least 31 persons, including 23 Iraqi police officers and Interior Ministry commandos, were killed as suicide bombers kept up their campaign for a second day, bringing the two-day toll to nearly 200.

Two suicide car bombers struck within a minute of each other and a half-mile apart in southern Baghdad yesterday, killing seven policemen, authorities said. Earlier, the day’s first suicide car bombing killed 16 policemen and five civilians in the same neighborhood. A roadside bomb struck a Ministry of Industry bus in eastern Baghdad, killing three civilians and wounding 13.

At least seven of 570 people wounded in the Wednesday attacks have died, hospital officials said, raising the toll to at least 167 in the worst day of killing in the capital since the U.S.-led invasion in March 2003.

The bombings were a “predictable spike in violence” tied to the upcoming referendum on Iraq’s new constitution, said Maj. Gen. Rick Lynch, the chief U.S. military spokesman.

“Remember, democracy equals failure for the insurgency. So there has to be heightened awareness now as we work our way toward the referendum” on Oct. 15, he said. “That’s power, that’s movement toward democracy.”

Al Qaeda in Iraq, led by Jordanian terrorist Abu Musab Zarqawi, took responsibility for the bombing campaign launched after an Iraqi-U.S. force of 8,500 stormed the northern city of Tal Afar, an insurgent bastion, this week.

Zarqawi purportedly declared “all-out war” on Shi’ite Muslims, Iraqi troops and the government in what the United States has called a desperate propaganda campaign to derail the political process.

The violence appeared to deepen the misery in Baghdad, where streets were noticeably quieter yesterday and deserted in the southern Dora district, where the latest bombings were concentrated.

U.S. and Iraqi forces using loudspeakers roamed the district warning residents to stay indoors because five more suicide car bombers were thought to be in the area.

Many victims of the Wednesday attacks were killed shortly after dawn when a bomber lured day laborers to his small van with the promise of work, then detonated his explosives in the heavily Shi’ite Kazimiyah district.

The massive bombings occurred with both Iraqi President Jalal Talabani and Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari in the United States.

“Today, Iraq is facing one of the most brutal campaigns of terror at the hands of the forces of darkness,” Mr. Talabani said yesterday, addressing the United Nations General Assembly with an appeal for international help.

Meanwhile, the Associated Press obtained the text of minor, final changes to Iraq’s draft constitution.

Among the main changes was a new clause noting that Iraq was a founding member of the Arab League, an addition Sunni Arabs sought in order to underline the country’s links with the Arab world.

A dropped passage gave the constitution precedence over international human rights agreements, which the United States had asked to be removed.

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