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IRAQ - Sep 25 - More Than 25 Die As Sectarian Tensions Rise.

A suicide bomber swerves his sedan across a highway median and detonates it in a police convoy in south-east Baghdad, in the worst of several attacks and gun battles that leaves at least 25 people dead and dozens wounded. The violence comes amid demonstrations and sharpening sectarian tensions across Iraq over the coming nationwide referendum on Iraq's constitution. American military officials have said they expect to see more attacks as the Oct 15 referendum approaches. The suicide bombing in Baghdad killed three members of an elite police commando unit and six civilians, including several people selling bread outside a bakery not far away, witnesses said. South of the capital in Musayyib, a suicide bomber on a motorcycle detonated his payload in a crowd of civilians near a well-known Shiite shrine, killing six people and wounding 19, Interior Ministry officials said. Attacks on Shiite civilians, one of the Sunni-led insurgency's chief targets, have grown in recent weeks. Earlier this month, Abu Musab Al Zarqawi, the most notorious terrorist in Iraq, declared an "all-out war on Iraq's Shiites". Musayyib was the site of a suicide bombing in July that left 71 people dead, in one of the worst single attacks Iraq has yet seen. Nearby in the town of Hilla, a bomb placed on a bicycle exploded Sep 25 morning in a street full of bookshops, killing one civilian and wounding 20, Interior Ministry officials said. The violence came hours after gun battles broke out early Sep 25 morning in Baghdad between militia fighters loyal to the renegade Shiite theologian Muqtada Al Sadr and American and Iraqi troops, Iraqi officials said. At least seven Iraqis died in the violence in Sadr City, the Shiite slum in north-east Baghdad, the officials said. The violence began when gunmen ambushed an Iraqi patrol that was trying to capture an insurgent cell believed to have carried out kidnappings and torture, American military officials said in a statement. US forces responded for reinforcement, and the ensuing gun battle lasted for 90 minutes. The fighting was the first between American forces and Sadr's militia, the Mahdi Army, since August 2004, when Sadr led a bloody uprising in Najaf. Tensions between Sadr's followers and the coalition have grown since last week, when British forces arrested to high-ranking Mahdi members, and militia fighters later attacked British tanks during a British raid on an Iraqi police station. But Sadr City remained quiet throughout the day. Sadr issued an order not to retaliate so as to spare the blood of Iraqis, said Abdel Hadi Al Daraji, a spokesman for the theologian. Also on Sep 25, heavily armed gunmen ambushed a minibus belonging to finance ministry in Baghdad's upscale Mansour district, killing two guards and making off with $850,000 in cash, Interior Ministry officials said. Nine other guards were injured in the robbery, the officials said. West of Baghdad in Ramadi, more than 1,000 people rallied to protest the constitution, Reuters reported. Sunni Arab leaders have angrily criticised the document and called for Iraqis to vote against it in the referendum, saying its provisions on regional autonomy will further divide the country. The march came a day after thousands of Shiites marched in support of the charter in Basra.
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Publication:APS Diplomat Recorder
Geographic Code:7IRAQ
Date:Oct 1, 2005
Words:538
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