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Suicide Attacks in Iraq Kill More Than 100


An attack near one of the holiest sites in Shiite Islam killed at least 49 people in Iraq's southern city of Karbala, about 80 kilometers south of Baghdad. Another attack in the insurgent stronghold of Ramadi killed more than 50 police recruits. The U.S. military also says five American troops were killed by a roadside bomb in the Iraqi capital.

The first blast occurred before midday in Karbala near the shrine to Imam Hussein, one of the most respected figures in Shiite Islam. A suicide bomber wearing an explosive belt detonated in a crowd on a pedestrian street closed last year to prevent car bomb attacks.

Television images showed pools of blood and body parts on dirtied concrete. One resident, Haider Kathem, says the area was crowded.

"Every day this place is crowded, it is a near a market," he said. "It was especially crowded today because pilgrims from around Iraq have come to visit the shrine."

The attack is the second to strike the relatively calm Shiite city in two days and the largest attack in the city since December 2004.

The violence continued an hour later in Iraq's western city of Ramadi. U.S. Marines say another suicide bomber struck an Iraqi police recruiting center. The bomber detonated his explosive vest as he stood in line with about 1,000 applicants outside the center.

The attack occurred on the third day of a four-day effort to recruit more police to help control the volatile western province, where Iraq's largely Sunni-led insurgency is strongest.

In Baghdad, four of the city's main bridges remained closed, and Iraqi security forces manned checkpoints across the city. It is the second day of heightened security since attacks Wednesday killed more than 50 people in the country, shattering the relative calm that had endured since the December 15 elections.

Wednesday's violence also included the kidnapping of the sister of the country's interior minister, a high-ranking member in Iraq's largest Shiite political coalition, the United Iraqi Alliance.

Another ranking Alliance member, the deputy speaker in Iraq's parliament, Hussein Shahristani, told the U.S. Ambassador Wednesday that the American military is not letting Iraqi forces take a strong enough role in stopping the insurgency.

"The United Iraqi Alliance is not going to keep quiet if the government fails to protect the population against terrorist threats and attacks…," he said.

Sharastani told reporters earlier that if the Americans or the Iraqi government cannot protect Iraqis, then the people have a right to defend themselves.

The U.S. embassy says the United States remains committed to working with Iraqi security services, training and building their capacity, and stopping terror groups.

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