Two Blasts Target Iraqi Police Patrols, 24 Die in Attacks

Two bombs aimed at police patrols exploded Saturday in Baghdad as a series of attacks killed at least 24 people nationwide on Saturday, while insurgent groups offered condolences for the death of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi and warned they would continue his campaign of violence.

The first explosion missed the police patrol but struck the al-Sadriya market in a mixed Shiite-Sunni Arab neighborhood in central Baghdad, killing four people and wounding 27, according to police Lt. Ali Mitaab and Lt. Thaer Mahmoud said.

Hours later, a parked car bomb hit a police patrol elsewhere in Baghdad, killing five people and wounding 14. The explosion targeted the patrol in Karradah, a popular shopping area in downtown Baghdad, police said.

Gunmen also stopped a minivan carrying Sunni passengers on the highway from Baghdad to Abu Ghraib, ordered them off the bus and opened fire, killing four and wounding another, police Capt. Jamil Hussein said.

The attacks came after Iraqi authorities imposed a four-hour driving ban Friday in Baghdad to prevent reprisal attacks after Zarqawi's killing in a U.S. air strike. A similar ban remains in effect in Diyala province northeast of Baghdad, where the Al Qaeda in Iraq leader was killed Wednesday.

One insurgent group, Ansar al-Sunna, posted a gruesome video showing militants interrogating, then beheading three Iraqis said to be members of a Shiite "death squad" that killed Sunnis. It did not say when the killings occurred, but the release of the video appeared timed as a warning that Zarqawi's death would not stop the insurgency or his brutal tactics.

Iraqi and U.S. leaders have acknowledged that Wednesday's killing of the Al Qaeda in Iraq leader was not likely to stop the bloodshed that has ransacked the country.

Shiite lawmaker Bahaa al-Din al-Araji said the government expected an increase in terror attacks during the next 10 days "as a reprisal for the extermination of the evil 'emir."'

"But at the same time his death has led the government to more information about tens of terrorists," he said. "God willing, this is the beginning of their end and security will be returned to the Iraqi streets."

The U.S. military has moved quickly to take advantage of the power vacuum left by Zarqawi's death, carrying out at least 56 raids since the airstrike. Zarqawi died shortly after the U.S. military obliterated his hideout northwest of Baghdad with two 500-pound bombs. The bombs tore a huge crater in the date palm forest where the house was nestled outside the town of Baqouba.

A search of the destroyed safehouse yielded documents and electronic storage devices that are being assessed for potential use against his followers, a military officer said Friday.

An M-16 rifle, grenades and AK-47 rifles also were found, according to the officer, who spoke on condition of anonymity because results from the search have not been announced publicly. The U.S.-made M-16 was fitted with special optics.

They also found documents and unspecified "media," which the officer indicated normally means information storage devices such as computer hard drives and digital cameras.

New AP Television News footage showed a pillow with a floral pattern, sandals and a bag scattered among the debris of concrete blocks and twisted steel.

A foam mattress also had its covering torn off, and a piece of a gold curtain with brown trim, a red blanket and other pieces of cloth were caught on the blocks. A swamp cooler and part of a washing machine also could be seen in the area. Green pomegranates hung from a tree left standing nearby. Pieces of women's clothing also were found in the rubble.

Gen. George Casey, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, had said four people, including a woman and a child, were killed with Zarqawi and the terrorist's spiritual consultant, but the U.S. military revised the makeup of those slain Friday, saying it was three woman and three men.

U.S. military spokesmanMaj. Gen. William Caldwell also said 39 raids were conducted across Iraq late Thursday and early Friday, including some directly related to the information they obtained from the strike against Zarqawi. Those were in addition to 17 raids carried out immediately after Zarqawi was killed.

The U.S. military in Baghdad declined to say whether more raids occurred Saturday, saying it would not release information concerning ongoing operations.

"However, coalition forces will continue to assess and exploit information, and we will continue to take necessary actions to degrade terrorist operations in Iraq," it said in a statement.

The military also revealed that Zarqawi was alive after his hideout was bombed, though he could barely speak.

"He mumbled something, but it was indistinguishable and it was very short," Caldwell said, adding that Zarqawi tried to get away after being placed on a stretcher by Iraqi police.

Caldwell said it was possible that Zarqawi was not inside the safehouse when it was attacked, a scenario which might explain why he was the only one among the six people killed who initially survived the bombing.

Interior Minister Jawad al-Bolani, a Shiite named to his key security post Thursday, said al-Zarqawi's death came after a painstaking effort to collect accurate data and investigate every clue.

"The killing of Zarqawi didn't occur by chance," al-Bolani told al-Arabiya TV on Friday. "His killing will raise the morale of the people as well the morale of the security services."

Violence also persisted in the province of Diyala, despite the three day 8 p.m.-6 a.m. driving ban that began Friday.

Gunmen on foot shot to death a carpenter and a grocer as they worked in the center of the Diyala provincial capital of Baqouba, 35 miles northeast of Baghdad.

Three Iraqi soldiers also were killed late Friday when their patrol clashed with gunmen in the Baladroz district, some 20 miles northeast of Baqouba, according to the Diyala joint cooperation center.

The U.S. military also said a roadside bomb killed a U.S. soldier and wounded another Friday in northern Iraq.

In other violence, according to police:

— Gunmen in two cars shot to death a Shiite metal worker and wounded two others in their shop in western Baghdad.

— A gunfight broke out between Iraqi soldiers and gunmen in the northern city of Mosul, 360 kilometers (225 miles) northwest of Baghdad, leaving two people dead, including a Syrian truck driver caught in the crossfire.

— Gunmen in two cars killed three Shiite butchers near a central bus station in Mosul.

U.S. and Iraqi forces arrested two Egyptians in a raid early Saturday of the town of Ana, near the Syrian border some 160 miles northwest of Baghdad, according to tribal leader Said al-Ani. He identified the Egyptians as Ihab Salim and Hussam Salim and said they had been living in the area for a long time.

The U.S. military refused to comment on the report, saying any such raid would be considered an ongoing operation and would not be discussed.

Caldwell has identified Egyptian-born Abu Ayyub al-Masri — who was named in a most-wanted list issued in February 2005 by the U.S. command and has a $50,000 bounty on his head — as the most likely candidate to take the reins of Al Qaeda in Iraq.