- The Washington Times - Saturday, June 3, 2006

BAGHDAD — A suicide car bomber blew himself up in a crowded market in oil-rich southern Basra yesterday, killing 28 persons and wounding 62. In Baghdad, a Russian diplomat was killed and four diplomatic employees were kidnapped.

Around Iraq, at least 42 persons were killed yesterday and dozens were wounded, and police discovered the remains of 12 persons, including eight severed heads.

Iraqi police found the severed heads north of Baghdad with a note indicating they were killed in retaliation for the slaying of four Shi’ite doctors. Five of the slain men were security guards at a Baghdad hospital complex who had been arrested Thursday by Iraqi police, police said.

In Basra, the country’s second-biggest city, the suicide car bomb exploded in the late afternoon when many people were shopping, police Capt. Mushtaq Kadhim said. The blast left pools of blood around the market square and set several vehicles on fire.

It wasn’t known who staged the attack, but Basra has seen growing violence and unrest, leading Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki last week to declare a monthlong state of emergency in the mainly Shi’ite city.

The attack came one day after Jordanian-born terrorist mastermind Abu Musab Zarqawi called on Iraq’s Sunni Arabs to kill Shi’ites. His al Qaeda in Iraq has claimed responsibility for some of the most horrific attacks in Iraq, including bombings that have killed more than 100 people.

In Baghdad, gunmen attacked a Russian diplomatic car just after noon, killing one Russian foreign service employee and kidnapping four, Russia’s Foreign Ministry said. The ministry identified the slain diplomat as Vitaly Vitalyevich Titov, according to the ITAR-Tass news agency.

At least 439 foreigners, including diplomats, have been kidnapped in Iraq since the U.S.-led invasion three years ago, according to figures provided earlier last month by a U.S. anti-kidnapping task force. Russia opposed the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq and has no troops here but maintains a diplomatic presence.

Amid the violence, Mr. al-Maliki was poised to appoint ministers to run the army and police, despite lingering disagreement among Iraq’s ethnic and sectarian parties. He held last-minute negotiations with Sunni and Shi’ite leaders and plans to announce today his choices for interior and defense ministers, two weeks after his government of national unity took office.

Sunni Arabs complained that negotiators for Mr. al-Maliki’s Shi’ite faction again rejected their candidates for defense minister. They said they would hold further talks early today before parliament convenes. The Interior Ministry post will go to a Shi’ite, the Defense Ministry to a Sunni Arab.

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