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Bombs kill 25 as US defends Baghdad wall

A string of bomb attacks in Iraq on Monday killed at least 25 people and wounded dozens of others.

world Updated: Apr 24, 2007 02:58 IST

A string of bomb attacks in Iraq on Monday killed at least 25 people and wounded dozens of others, as US and Iraqi officials defended the building of a wall around a Sunni enclave in Baghdad.

A car bomb near an office of Kurdish leader Massud Barzani's Kurdish Democratic Party killed 10 people and wounded 20 more in Tal Isquf, a mainly Christian village in northern Iraq, party spokesman Abdul Gani Ali said.

Witnesses said the car was left between the party office and a social club, and that some of the victims were thought to be Kurdish "peshmerga" fighters.

Bomb attacks also ravaged Baghdad, the epicentre of a campaign by Al-Qaeda militants to undermine Iraq's Shiite-led government and to foment sectarian violence between Sunnis and Shiites.

A suicide bomber blew himself up outside the Al-Yasmin restaurant near the capital's fortified Green Zone, killing seven people and wounding 14, a security official said.

The walled zone houses the US embassy and the Iraqi parliament, where a suicide bomber triggered his explosive vest on April 12, killing one lawmaker.

Two more car bombs exploded in a parking lot a short distance from the Green Zone, opposite the Iranian embassy and also close to the Iraqi defence ministry. A bystander was wounded in the first blast.

The Iranian embassy was not damaged in either explosion and it was unclear if it was the target. North of Baghdad in the violence-plagued city of Baquba, a bomber exploded his car near the city council building, killing four policemen including a senior officer, police Lieutenant Ahmed Ali said.

In the western city of Ramadi, a car bomb destroyed a restaurant, killing four customers, said senior provincial security official Colonel Tareq al-Dulaimi.

It was not clear whether the restaurant was attacked by a suicide bomber, but an insurgent did kill himself in a similar assault on a nearby police checkpoint that wounded four officers and a bystander, he told AFP.

"I cannot confirm the attack on the restaurant was a suicide attack, there are many body parts. There are 20 people wounded, some of them seriously," said Dulaimi, who works with a coalition of tribes opposed to Al-Qaeda.

A spokesman for the US Marines in Ramadi, Lieutenant Roger Hollenbeck, told AFP that both attacks were carried out by suicide car bombers.

Iraqi and US forces are battling an anti-American insurgency in Ramadi four years after the March 2003 invasion of Iraq, but in recent months an alliance of Sunni tribes dubbed the Anbar Awakening has risen up to help them.

Iraqi and US officials, meanwhile, defended their decision to construct a three-mile (five kilometre) wall around Baghdad's dangerous Sunni district of Adhamiyah, even though Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki opposed it.

The new US ambassador to Iraq, Ryan Crocker, used his first news conference since arriving in Baghdad last month to insist that the concrete wall was not intended to segregate the city's warring Sunni and Shiite communities.

"I think it's important... that one not lose sight of the threat that is motivating some of the decisions that have been made," Crocker said.

"The intention in Adhamiyah is clearly not to segregate communities nor to engage in a form of political or social engineering," he continued.

"It's to try to identify where the faultlines are, where avenues of attack lie and to set up the barriers literally to prevent those attacks."

The spokesman for the Iraqi forces engaged alongside US troops in enforcing the Baghdad security plan, Brigadier General Qassim Atta, said that many other districts already had or would have some form of barrier.

Some might be walls, but others ditches, sandbags or fences, he said, and accused the news media of inflating the size of the five-metre (16-feet) tall barricade that US troops are erecting around Adhamiyah.

"In fact the Adhamiyah security barrier has been exaggerated by the media, and we anticipated there would be some reactions by weak-minded people," he said, referring to criticism of the plan by many Iraqi politicians.

Atta said Iraqi units involved in planning and building walls are under Maliki's command and implied the prime minister had reacted to false reports, saying: "He said he would not accept a 12-metre high security barrier."

Maliki told reporters in Cairo on Sunday that he opposed the wall, saying its "construction is going to stop."

On Monday, hundreds of Sunnis marched through the streets of Adhamiyah, carrying banners reading "No, no to sectarian barrier!" in protest.

As the controversy erupted, US President George W. Bush said on Monday that the security plan in Baghdad was helping to reduce sectarian violence.

"There's been some progress. There's been some horrific bombings, of course, but there's also a decline in sectarian violence," Bush told reporters.

First Published: Apr 24, 2007 01:03 IST