KIRKUK, Iraq – Bombers and gunmen killed eight people in a tense city northeast of Baghdad on Monday as Iraqi security forces prepared to further tighten security ahead of the holy month of Ramadan, when violence traditionally spikes across Iraq.
In the area in and around Baqouba, 35 miles northeast of the capital, three Iraqi army soldiers were killed by a roadside bomb blast that targeted their patrol. A gunman on a motorcycle killed a woman walking down a street and, in a separate incident, a group attacked a family in their home killing two brothers. In Muqdadiyah, northeast, an armed group attacked and killed two civilians.
In southern Basra, police found the body of Lt. Col. Fawzi Abdul Karim al-Mousawi, chief of the city's anti-terrorism department. Al-Mousawi was kidnapped late Sunday in front of his house by a group of armed men using two cars. He had been handcuffed and shot seven times.
Gunmen killed a former member of the defunct Ba'th Party in Hillah, south of Baghdad.
Police in the capital also found the bodies of three men in eastern Baghdad. All were bound, blindfolded and had been shot in the head.
The violence came after a particularly bloody day north of the capital and as the government was preparing to announce new security measures for Baghdad ahead of Ramadan, which is expected to start on Sept. 24.
Six bombs killed 24 people and wounded 84 in Kirkuk, a northern oil city the Kurds want added to their self-ruled region.
The violence came as politicians argued over federation legislation that a Sunni Arab party warned could tear Iraq apart.
The tortured bodies of 15 people were found elsewhere, probable victims of worsening sectarian reprisals, and the U.S. military announced that a sailor assigned to the Marines died Saturday from wounds suffered during combat in Iraq's restive western Anbar province.
There was no indication who was behind the bombings on Sunday in Kirkuk, a city 180 miles north of Baghdad that lies in the center of Iraq's vast northern oil fields and is the subject of rival claims by the region's Arabs, Kurds and Turkomen.
The worst assault involved a suicide truck bomb that exploded in the city center, killing 18 and wounding 55. A few hours later, a suicide car bomb rammed into a joint U.S.-Iraqi army patrol in the south of the city, killing at least three bystanders and wounding eight people.
Two roadside bombs and two parked car bombs went off in other parts of the city, killing three civilians and wounding 21 people, including two policemen and four soldiers.
In the biggest bombing, a gunman in the truck also fired on civilians before the vehicle exploded near Kirkuk's criminal court and the headquarters of the two main Kurdish political parties, the Kurdistan Democratic Party and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, police said.
The Patriotic Union of Kurdistan is headed by Iraqi President Jalal Talabani, and the Kurdistan Democratic Party is led by the president of the autonomous Kurdistan region, Massoud Barzani.
Barzani angered many Iraqis when he ordered Sept. 1 that the national flag be replaced by the Kurdish banner on all government buildings in the Kurdish self-rule zone. Sunni Arabs, in particular, fear Kurds will use a federal system to push for full secession.
Thousands of Kurds were forced to flee the Kirkuk area during Saddam Hussein's regime, which pursued an "Arabization" campaign to force out ethnic Kurds and Turkomen. Kurds now want to incorporate Kirkuk into their autonomous region, an idea that has been caught up in the heated debate over the proposal to transform Iraq into a federated state.
The second largest Sunni Arab party, the National Dialogue Front, on Sunday rejected proposed legislation to pave the way for a federal system, arguing that would result in the division of the country.
The Front's call for the bill to be dropped came a day before a planned informal meeting of leaders from all parties in parliament to discuss the legislation, which was proposed last week by the main Shiite Muslim alliance.
The idea of federalism is enshrined in the Iraqi constitution adopted last fall, but before it can be implemented the mechanics have to be legislated and approved in a national referendum.
Last week, the Iraqi parliament suspended a legislative session after two major Sunni Arab blocs boycotted the proceedings to protest the draft submitted by the Shiites' United Iraqi Alliance.
Some Shiites want to create an autonomous region in the oil-rich south where they are dominant. The Kurds already have their region in the north, so Sunni Arabs would be left with Iraq's western provinces, which are mostly desert and lack oil resources.