- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 16, 2007

12:12 p.m.

BAGHDAD — A car bomb exploded near a market in a Shi’ite enclave northeast of Baghdad, killing at least 32 people and wounding 50, police said today. Hospital officials and victims said chlorine gas may have been used in the attack, but police denied that.

Clashes also broke out in the mostly Shi’ite city of Nasiriyah in southern Iraq when militants fought with police who had arrested two wanted militia members, police said. Nine Iraqis were killed and 75 wounded, police said.

In Baghdad, at least nine mortar rounds or rockets slammed into the U.S.-controlled Green Zone, killing two Iraqis and wounding 10 persons — none of them Americans, U.S. Embassy spokesman Lou Fintor said. It was the second such attack in as many days.

The Green Zone, a sprawling complex on the west bank of the Tigris River, also was hit by a rocket yesterday, wounding nine foreigners. Mr. Fintor said he could not provide specific nationalities but they were not Americans or Iraqis.

The car-bomb attack occurred yesterday evening in the village of Abu Saydah in the volatile Diyala province, police said.

Residents of the farming village of 10,000 people said the attack appeared to be revenge for a confrontation a month ago in which locals killed 12 al Qaeda fighters. They said residents had fought back against Sunni militants trying to storm the village and 10 days later received threats to leave the village or face death.

Hospital officials and victims said it appeared chlorine gas was used in the attack as many of the wounded were having difficulty breathing and their sight was affected. However, provincial police officials denied the toxic gas was involved.

Today, clashes between police and the Mahdi Army erupted about 2 a.m. in the center of Nasiriyah, a city 200 miles southeast of Baghdad. Both sides were still on the streets by sunrise, and shops remained closed, police said.

The fighting killed six civilians, two militants and one policeman, and 75 Iraqis were wounded, police said.

A new U.S. government report released yesterday showed that the recent U.S. troop increase and security crackdown concentrated in Baghdad have done little to reduce the number of attacks in Iraq.

The average number of attacks rose from 71 a day in January 2006 to a high of 176 per day in October, according to the report from the Government Accountability Office. In February, when the troop increase began to take effect, daily attacks dropped slightly, to 164. Daily attacks averaged 157 in March and 149 in April, the report said.

The report, which cited the U.S.-led forces in Iraq for the figures, did not measure the numbers killed and wounded in the attacks.

Meanwhile, thousands of U.S. forces continued to search for three U.S. soldiers feared captured by al Qaeda last week. U.S. aircraft dropped leaflets in a thinly populated farming area 20 miles south of Baghdad, seeking information about the soldiers.

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