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Deadly Car Bombing Mars Preparations for Iraqi National Conference - 2004-07-28

A bystander describes the grisly scene outside the police recruiting station in Baquba. He says a minibus drove straight into a crowd of young people waiting outside the center and exploded.

The death toll is expected to rise but is already considered the highest since an explosion last August killed more than 80 people in the holy city of Najaf.

Deputy Foreign Minister Hamid al-Bayati spoke to reporters shortly after the attack.

"We condemn such terrorist attacks because they target civilians and innocent people,? he said. ?This is not the first time that terrorists have attacked Iraqi people and civilians. Secondly, we have been trying to coordinate with neighboring countries in order to guard the borders."

In fact, Iraq's interim Prime Minister Iyad Allawi has been visiting neighboring countries to gain support for tightening controls on both sides of Iraq's border. Iraqi officials say a lot of the terrorist violence is being carried out by foreign radicals now operating inside the country.

A radical Islamic site linked to Jordanian-born terrorist Abu Musab al-Zarqawi has displayed a photo of a masked man holding up a bloody head. A statement accompanying the photo identifies it as that of a Bulgarian hostage whose decapitated body was found in Iraq earlier this month. The statement says it should serve as a warning to all allies who cooperate with U.S. President Bush.

Iraq experts say not all the radicals are foreigners. Anti-coalition insurgents also have abducted and murdered dozens of Iraqis and foreigners linked to the country's reconstruction in order to derail the country's democratic transition.

On Wednesday insurgents set fire to the house of a provincial governor in the western city of Ramadi and kidnapped his two sons. The abductions coincided with attacks on several U.S. military camps in the area.

U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell has condemned the car bombing in Baquba and other terrorist attacks in Iraq. But he insists Iraqis cannot let the violence stop them from rebuilding the country.

"They're killing Iraqis for the purpose of denying Iraqis the basic freedoms that the rest of the world increasingly is enjoying. We have to condemn it. We have to fight it,? Mr. Powell said. ?We must not let these kinds of tragic incidents deter us from our goal."

In other news, Iraq is making progress toward resuming its place in the world political arena. During Prime Minister Allawi's visit to Saudi Arabia, the two governments agreed to resume diplomatic relations. Bilateral ties were cut 13 years ago after Iraq invaded neighboring Kuwait. The U.S.-led coalition that pushed Saddam Hussein's troops out of Kuwait used Saudi Arabia as their base of operation.