- The Washington Times - Monday, March 19, 2007

12:09 p.m.

BAGHDAD (AP) — An explosion at a Shi’ite mosque in Baghdad killed at least eight worshippers today, the fourth anniversary of the start of the war, while a series of car bombs struck the oil-rich city of Kirkuk in northern Iraq, killing 12, police said.

The attacks highlighted the challenges facing U.S. and Iraqi forces seeking to curb sectarian bloodshed with a month-old security crackdown that has led to a drastic drop in execution-style killings but failed to stop the bombings.

The afternoon blast in Baghdad shattered windows and damaged a wall of the small green-domed mosque situated among shops in the central Shorja market area, where a truck bomb killed 137 persons last month.

Police said the explosion was caused by a bomb placed in the corner behind the preacher’s podium, leaving a crater and a pile of rubble on the floor, with a clock that was knocked off the wall. The preacher was among the 32 persons wounded, police said.

Iraqi authorities have imposed strict security in the area to prevent car bombings that often target crowded markets.

About an hour later, four blasts occurred in a 35-minute period in different areas of Kirkuk, 180 miles north of Baghdad, killing at least 12 and wounding more than 30.

A car bomb exploded near a market in a predominantly Arab neighborhood, killing eight persons and wounding eight, police said. A mortar shell landed on a house in the same area, wounding five civilians. There is a police station about 500 yards from the site, and the attack’s target was not clear.

Many blame the recent increase in violence in Kirkuk on insurgents who have fled the security crackdown in Baghdad. The city, which Kurds hope to incorporate into their autonomous zone, is also the center of an ethnic power struggle.

In other violence, Khalaf Ghargan, the mayor of the small Shi’ite village of Dijelah, some 100 miles southeast of Baghdad, was kidnapped on his way to work, and his bullet-riddled body was later found along a highway, police and morgue officials said.

Gunmen also attacked a police checkpoint northwest of Samarra, 60 miles north of Baghdad, killing one policeman and wounding three others, police said.

About 20 gunmen also stormed two police stations in Duluiyah, 45 miles north of Baghdad, in two separate attacks, ordering the stations vacated before blowing up the two buildings, police said.

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