|US Army soldiers respond to a car bombing in the Yarmouk neighborhood of Baghdad, Iraq, Wednesday, May 11, 2005|
In Iraq, violence continues as the new government starts discussing a permanent constitution. Insurgents struck at police and military targets in a series of morning attacks, while one suicide car bomber detonated his explosive-packed vehicle in a crowded civilian market.
An explosion in deposed president Saddam Hussein's hometown, Tikrit, killed mostly civilians, after guards prevented the bomber from driving into a police station. Thwarted in his initial plan, the suicide attacker swerved his vehicle into a small local market.
Elsewhere, in western Iraq, another suicide bomber attacked an army recruiting center in Hawija, a heavily Sunni Arab town in the southwest of Kirkuk Province, inflicting heavy casualties among new recruits.
Other suicide bombers set off three explosions around Baghdad in the same day of violence.
The latest attacks continued a wave of intensified insurgent activity since the formation of Iraq's new government, nearly two weeks ago.
Meanwhile, American and Iraqi forces, supported by U.S. air power, were reported to be winding down an offensive against insurgent bases in Iraq's western desert, along the Syrian border.
U.S. troops, mostly Marines, launched the offensive on Sunday in the area around Qaim, killing more than 100 insurgents, according to U.S. military spokesmen.
The town has been known as a stronghold for insurgents attached to Jordanian militant leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.
The Syrian border is the suspected route of entry for many foreign fighters, including the bulk of suicide bombers.
In apparent retaliation, militants loyal to Zarqawi have kidnapped the governor of Anbar, Raja Nawaf, along with four of his bodyguards. The militants demanded the release of other Zarqawi followers that are being held by the governor.
U.S. diplomats say they hope to undercut tribal support for Zarqawi's network by persuading Sunni Arabs to join Iraq's political process. Sunni Arabs have accepted several posts in Iraq's new cabinet.
Following difficult negotiations, Shi'ite and Kurdish leaders agreed to give the key defense ministry post to Sunni Arab sociologist Saadoun Dulaimi.
Some Sunni politicians say that they can help calm down insurgent violence if they are allowed a meaningful role in upcoming constitutional debates.
With most cabinet positions now filled, the main factions in Iraq's elected National Assembly have begun holding meetings to discuss a permanent constitution.
A multi-party constitutional committee is aiming to produce a draft by August.