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Latest Baghdad Bombing Comes as Thousands Attend Hakim Funeral - 2003-09-02


A car bomb has exploded at a main police station in Baghdad, causing many casualties. The incident follows an attack on a U.S. military police convoy in which two American soldiers were killed and one wounded.

The car bombing occurred before midday at the Rasafa police station in western Baghdad. It is a major police headquarters for the capital.

VOA reporter Selwan al-Naimi, an eyewitness, was thrown across his car by the blast. "I saw many casualties, people injured, many ambulances, car ambulances, and American helicopters. Humvees came, suddenly," he said.

The station is the headquarters of Baghdad's Acting Police Chief, General Hassan al-Obeidi. It is located across the street from the police academy where part of Iraq's reconstituted police force is being trained.

Meanwhile, U.S. military officials announced that two soldiers with a military police brigade died Monday when their convoy struck an explosive device in southern Baghdad. A third soldier was reportedly wounded.

Four days ago, a car bomb exploded outside the main mosque in Najaf, killing more than 80 people including a Shi'ite Muslim leader, Ayatollah Mohamed Baqer al-Hakim. The cleric was buried in Najaf Tuesday after three days of mourning attended by hundreds of thousands of people.

American military officials say they are due Wednesday to transfer responsibility for security in the Najaf area to an international force led by Poland. But they add that patrols by U.S. Marines will continue in Najaf city for several weeks.

The Iraqi Governing Council Monday named a cabinet of ministers, the first since the fall of the Saddam Hussein government. The cabinet, which is divided along ethnic and sectarian lines like the council itself, contains 13 Shi'ite Muslim ministers, including the ministers of oil, petroleum, and trade.

Sunni Muslims hold five ministries, including finance and labor, while Kurdish leaders also hold five posts, including foreign affairs. Turkomen and Christians received one ministry each.

The cabinet does not have ministries of defense or information. These agencies, which included many of the former regime's most feared security services, are being reorganized.

Nor does the cabinet have a ministry of religious affairs, a concession to the sectarian tensions that plague the country.

The chairman of the Governing Council will act as prime minister. The rotating position passed Monday to the leader of the Iraqi National Congress, Ahmed Chalabi.

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