- The Washington Times - Monday, June 26, 2006

BAGHDAD — Powerful bombs tore through markets in two cities yesterday evening, killing at least 35 persons and wounding 86, police reported.

A key Shi’ite legislator said seven minor Sunni Arab insurgent groups had contacted the government to declare their readiness to join efforts at national reconciliation.

At least 20 persons were killed and 30 wounded in a bicycle bombing in the Sunni Muslim insurgent stronghold of Baqouba, 35 miles northeast of Baghdad, said police in the city on the condition of anonymity, for fear of retribution.

That blast occurred shortly after a bomb went off in the main market in the predominantly Shi’ite city of Hillah, killing at least 15 persons and wounding 56, said police Capt. Muthana Khalid.

The market in Hillah, near the site of ancient Babylon, was crowded with shoppers buying vegetables and other groceries before dinner. Angry survivors shouted, “Down with the police,” and threw stones to express rage over the lack of security.

Elsewhere, 10 Sunni students at the University of Technology in eastern Baghdad were kidnapped after gunmen rousted them from their dormitory rooms, police Lt. Thayer Mahmoud said.

Gunmen attacked a convoy assigned to Iraq’s most senior Sunni politician, killing a bodyguard, police said. Adnan al-Dulaimi, head of the Iraqi Accordance Front, was not in any of the vehicles.

The seven insurgent groups, most of them made up of former members or backers of Saddam Hussein’s government, have said they want a truce, said Hassan al-Suneid, a lawmaker in Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s Dawa party.

The contact by the insurgent groups, which could not be verified independently, could be evidence of a growing divide between Iraqi insurgents and the more brutal and ideological fighters of al Qaeda in Iraq, most of whom are thought to be religiously motivated non-Iraqis.

Mr. al-Maliki was considering a meeting with leaders of the groups or contacts through intermediaries, Mr. al-Suneid said.

He identified six of the seven organizations by name, listing them as the 1920 Revolution Brigades, the Mohammed Army, Abtal al-Iraq (Heroes of Iraq), the 9th of April Group, al-Fatah Brigades and the Brigades of the General Command of the Armed Forces.

The 1920 Revolution Brigades operates primarily in Anbar province. It says its operations have been conducted against only U.S. forces. This and other insurgent groups were said to have protected polling places against attacks during the December parliamentary voting.

The Mohammed Army is made up of former members of Saddam’s Ba’ath Party, members of his elite Republican Guard and former military commanders. It, too, has focused attacks on the U.S. military and played a role in the November 2004 battle for Fallujah.

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