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10 Cards in this Set

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BAGHDAD (Reuters) - A suicide car bomber killed at least seven Iraqis at an entrance to Baghdad's government and diplomatic compound on Monday, a year to the day since U.S. forces captured Saddam Hussein.

Nineteen were wounded, four seriously, civilian hospital staff said. The U.S. military said no U.S. soldiers were hurt in a bombing claimed by al Qaeda ally Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. It came after seven Marines were killed on Sunday, the heaviest daily toll since the end of their assault on Falluja last month.
Iraq's U.S.-backed interim president said insurgents were trying to wreck next month's election and must be stopped. Ghazi Yawar warned that the present chaos of the occupation could spawn an "Iraqi Hitler" as people yearned for a return to order.
Scraps of wrecked cars hung in trees at the entrance to the Green Zone government complex, once Saddam's presidential palace. It also now houses the U.S. and other embassies.

"We had stopped in the car when all we felt was a car explode next to us," said one injured Iraqi civilian at the city's busy Yarmuk hospital, his face caked with blood.
Most of the victims were lining up to enter the area at the start of the working day — when suicide bombers have struck the checkpoints before. U.S. troops have died in such attacks. They have now handed control of many external checkpoints to Iraqis.
Standing among bloodied casualties at the Yarmuk hospital, senior doctor Sabah Aboud said he had received seven bodies and was treating 19 wounded. Four were in a serious condition.

"On this blessed day, a lion from the martyrs battalion struck a group of apostates and Americans in the Green Zone," Zarqawi's Al Qaeda Organization for Holy War in Iraq said on a Web site. U.S. officials say the Jordanian militant, their arch enemy in Iraq, fled Falluja before the assault began on Nov. 8.
Zarqawi's group made no mention of Saddam. U.S. officials believe Islamists have, however, made common cause with secular nationalists once loyal to Saddam to oppose the U.S. occupation.

On Dec. 13 last year, U.S. forces seized Saddam after eight months on the run. President Bush and his generals said the deposed president's arrest could puncture guerrilla activity among his supporters in the Sunni Arab minority.

But violence has gone on unabated and the death rate among U.S. troops has risen since a dishevelled Saddam was dragged from a hideout dug in farmland near his home town of Tikrit.
Iraq's foreign minister, Hoshiyar Zebari, said he hoped Saddam would stand trial, maybe in weeks, after the election.

The seven Marines were killed in two incidents on Sunday in Anbar province, which includes Falluja and Ramadi. The military gave no details. The last time there were as many U.S. deaths in a day was in mid-November during the Falluja offensive.

Fighting continues in parts of the city, including some U.S. aerial bombing on Sunday. "There is no telling at this time if it is fighters that had eluded the (U.S.) forces to this point or if they are insurgents that have found a way to get back into the city," Marine Captain Brad Gordon said of the enemy.

Insurgents are also very active in Ramadi, to the west.
The Falluja assault was meant to quell attacks in the run-up to the Jan. 30 vote, which should benefit the long-oppressed Shi'ite majority at the expense of Saddam's fellow Sunnis.

Sunni leaders failed to win a delay but complain that the election will be skewed by violence in the Sunni north and west.


President Yawar, a Sunni tribal leader occupying a largely figurehead post, told the BBC the bombers wanted to disrupt the vote: "Their tactical target is to undermine the electoral process and to stop us having our first elections.

"This is why we see it is a challenge we have to meet."

He called for stronger Iraqi forces, saying Washington had been wrong to disband them after the war. Speaking to Asharq al-Awsat newspaper he warned that continued mayhem and foreign occupation could see Iraqis yearning for a strong hand.
"This could in the long term create an environment in which an Iraqi Hitler could emerge like the one created by the defeat of Germany and the humiliation of Germans in World War One."

Though few have mourned Saddam's downfall, some Iraqis say his authoritarian rule overcame ethnic and religious divides.

At least 1,015 U.S. troops have been killed in action since the invasion of Iraq 21 months ago. In all, 1,290 have died.

At Tarmiya just north of Baghdad, a car bomb hit U.S. troops and wounded three Americans and an Iraqi, the military said.

Two Iraqi National Guards were killed and five wounded in a gunfight at nearby Dijail, a Guard officer said, and further north, at Samarra, police said three children were killed in crossfire when U.S. and Iraqi forces clashed with gunmen.
A National Guard was killed and two wounded when gunmen fired on a checkpoint near Iskandariya. At nearby Mahmudiya, just south of Baghdad, Iraqi police and Guards fought off a rebel attack on a police station on Sunday, a U.S. officer said.

Some of Saddam's old lieutenants went on what their lawyers called a hunger strike. The U.S. military said eight detainees had refused breakfast on Monday — but then ate around 11 a.m.