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Iraqi insurgents bounce back from recent losses
BAGHDAD -- Insurgents reasserted themselves in a spasm of deadly attacks after days of reported setbacks, killing 17 Iraqi security forces in four separate car bombings, gunning down five Iraqi women working for American troops and assassinating a senior Iraqi military official, authorities said Friday. Insurgents bent on stopping the creation of a new leadership intensified attacks on Iraqi security forces, whose deployment and success are seen as the key to an eventual American withdrawal.
Twin suicide car bombings Friday in Iskandriyah, 30 miles south of Baghdad, targeted an Iraqi army convoy and police barracks, killing four policemen, two civilians and an Iraqi soldier, police officials said. Eight other members of the security forces and 15 civilians were injured.
Another suicide car bombing Friday targeted an Iraqi convoy south of Baghdad and killed one Iraqi soldier and wounded four others, police said.
Late Thursday at a checkpoint in the central city of Ramadi, a white sedan was blown up, killing 11 Iraqi soldiers and wounding 14 people -- including two U.S. Army soldiers, nine Iraqi security forces, and three civilians -- the U.S. military said. The Islamic Army in Iraq posted an Internet statement claiming responsibility.
A second car bomb exploded Friday in the city center, targeting a U.S.-Iraqi convoy. The two insurgents in the car were killed, but no one else was hurt.
In Baghdad on Friday, unknown gunmen assassinated Col. Salman Muhammad Hassan, who helped lead an Iraqi Army division based in the southern city of Basra, and wounded two of his sons as they left a relative's funeral in Baghdad, security officials said. Police also said Friday they found two decapitated bodies clad in Iraqi army uniforms a day earlier on a road north of the capital.
Along a road near Kirkuk, attackers ambushed a Defense Ministry officer, identified only as Col. Sarajeddin, and kidnapped him, Iraqi army Maj. Gen. Anwar Mohammed Amin said.
In Baghdad on Thursday, five women translators who worked for the U.S. military were gunned down by insurgents as they returned home from work, police Capt. Ahmed Aboud said.
Near Abu Ghraib, firefighters worked to extinguish an oil-pipeline blaze ignited by insurgent bombs. The conduit connects Iraq's northern oil fields with a Baghdad-area refinery.
The U.S. military said four insurgents were killed and two were detained during an attempted ambush in the northern city of Mosul.
Still, the reported gains against militants have been impossible to verify, including the Iraqi government's claim that it killed 85 insurgents Tuesday during a raid on a suspected training camp.
The U.S. military, which participated in the raid, refused to confirm the death toll, and Army Maj. Richard Goldenberg, a 42nd Infantry Division spokesman, said many militants in the camp fled carrying casualties.
On the political front, Iraqi lawmakers had repeatedly delayed calling a second session of the National Assembly that first met March 16, a month and a half after they were elected. The next session is tentatively set for Tuesday, said Jawad al-Maliki, a negotiator from the Shiite-led United Iraqi Alliance.
Saleh said the meeting likely would focus on electing a speaker, although it hadn't been decided yet if the president -- expected to be Jalal Talabani, a Kurdish leader -- would be announced. The prime minister is expected to be Ibrahim al-Jaafari, a politician from Iraq's Shiite Arab majority.
Shiite and Kurdish officials are considering giving Sunnis the parliament speaker post, one of the two deputy presidents, and possibly the Defense Ministry.
Saleh said the Kurds were expected to take at least eight ministries in the new government, including the Foreign Ministry. Both the Kurds and the alliance are interested in the Oil Ministry, but Saleh said no decision had yet been made.
He also said that trials of some members of the former regime could start as early as a month from now. "You may well see trials starting in the next four to six weeks, actual trials," he said.
Qasim Abdul-Zahra contributed to this report from Baghdad.