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Twin suicide attacks kill 35 north of Baghdad

Two bombs explode outside government building in Taji, Iraq, killing 35 as ministries of defense and interior remain without ministers and US troop withdrawal approaches

AFP , Tuesday 5 Jul 2011
People inspect the scene of a bomb attack in Taji, about 12 miles (20 kilometers) north of Baghdad, Iraq, Tuesday, (AP).
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Twin suicide attacks ripped through the city of Taji north of Baghdad on Tuesday, killing at least 35 people, officials said, after Iraq suffered its deadliest month so far this year in June.

"Thirty-five people were killed and 28 wounded when a car bomb and an improvised bomb exploded simultaneously outside a government office where national identification cards are issued, and the provincial council offices," the official said.

A police officer in Taji said that one suicide bomber in a car and a second with an explosives belt had caused the carnage.

"A car bomb exploded at the entrance of the identity-cards office, which is next to the provincial council building.

"When people gathered, a suicide bomber in their midst exploded his belt," he said.

He added that the mayor of Taji, security officials from the city and tribal leaders were in a meeting at the provincial council offices when the bombers struck. There was no immediate word on who the casualties were.

Baghdad security spokesman Major General Qassim Atta said the blasts struck at midday (0900 GMT).

Tareq al-Hashemi, an Iraqi vice president, condemned the violence, and said Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki should speedily appoint ministers of interior and defence.

"Malicious political agendas are behind this crime and other attacks in Iraq, agendas that do not want a stop to bloodshed," he said in a statement.

"A speedy decision is needed over the security ministries, and Maliki should begin serious efforts to end this case."

Iraqi leaders inside the unity government have been bickering over which parties should get those key ministries ever since reaching a power sharing agreement and forming a government in December.

Meanwhile, Atta also said at least five people were killed by a rocket strike on the grounds of Baghdad's Al-Rasheed hotel late on Monday.

"A Katyusha rocket struck at 9:00 pm (1800 GMT) on Monday in the grounds of the Rasheed Hotel where workers live in mobile homes," he told AFP.

"Five people were killed and 25 trailer homes were destroyed," he said.

Atta said security forces had arrested two men in Baghdad's southern Shiite district of Zafraniyah, from where the attack was launched.

He said another Katyusha rocket, a launcher and a video camera were seized from the men.

The violence came after June saw the highest monthly death toll for Iraqis so far this year. A total of 271 were killed in attacks, according to government figures.

Fourteen US soldiers were also killed in attacks in June, making it the bloodiest month in three years for American troops, who are due to pull out by the end of the year under the terms of a bilateral security pact.

The spike in violence comes as US officials have repeatedly asked Baghdad if it wants some troops to stay beyond the scheduled pullout deadline.

Baghdad has blamed Al-Qaeda for the increased death toll for Iraqis, which was up 34 percent on May. But the US military holds Iranian-backed Shiite militias responsible for the deadly attacks on its troops.

State minister for reconciliation, Amir al-Khuzai, said on Monday that Iraq would not reconcile with members of Al-Qaeda or anyone who had killed Iraqis, but suggested it was open to talks with those who had fought American forces.

US officials have recently accused Iran of smuggling more lethal weapons to Shiite militias in Iraq, a charge Tehran denies.

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