104 Dead in Homicide Attacks in Iraq

Homicide bombers killed 43 people in the Iraqi city of Khalis Thursday, officials said, as police said at least 61 were killed in two bombings in a Baghdad market, raising the two for both incidents to 104.

Two homicide bombers struck a market in a predominantly Shiite neighborhood in Baghdad at about 6 p.m. in the Shaab area in northeastern Baghdad, according to the officials who gave the casualty toll.

The neighborhood was one of the first focuses of U.S. and Iraqi soldiers searching for Shiite militants and weapons in a six-week-old security sweep aimed at stopping the sectarian violence.

It also was the site of a bombing earlier this month that police and the U.S. military said involved the use of two children as decoys. At least eight Iraqis and 28 wounded in that attack, which targeted people cooking food at open-air grills in the street as part of a Shiite Muslim holiday commemorating the anniversary of the Prophet Muhammad's death.

Three homicide car bombers struck a market in a predominantly Shiite town Khalis, north of Baghdad, killing at least 43 people and wounding 86, police and city officials said.

The first attacker drove his explosives-laden car into the crowded area in Khalis at about 6 p.m., followed in five-minute intervals by the other two bombers, who apparently were aiming at rescue crews and onlookers gathering in the aftermath, police said.

Police said the bombers came from two separate directions.

Khalis is in volatile Diyala province, where fighting has been raging among Sunni insurgents, Shiite militiamen and U.S. and Iraqi troops.

It has been struck by bombings several times in recent months, most recently on Jan. 22 when a bomb followed by a mortar attack struck a market, killing at least 12 people and wounding 29, police said.

A homicide bomber also blew himself up near a Shiite mosque in the town on Dec. 30, killing nine people and wounding about a dozen.

Meanwhile, in the northwestern city of Tal Afar, sectarian violence continued Thursday, when five mortar shells hit a Shiite district, wounding three people, according to police Brig. Abdul-Karim al-Jibouri.

The shelling came a day after Shiite militants and police went on a shooting rampage against Sunnis in the city, killing as many as 70 men execution-style. The killings were triggered by twin truck bombings there the previous day that killed 80 people and wounded 185.

The city was under curfew Thursday for the second successive day, said al-Jibouri.

Husham al-Hamdani, head of the provincial government's security committee in nearby Mosul, said local authorities planned a reconciliation meeting between the city's Sunni and Shiite leaders. He also announced that policemen arrested Wednesday on suspicion of taking part in the revenge killings have been freed. He declined to give a reason.

In Baghdad, Iraq's national traffic police chief, escaped an assassination attempt when gunmen ambushed his convoy in a northern Baghdad district at 8 a.m., a police official said.

Two of Gen. Jaafar Kadhim's guards were killed and two were injured when the gunmen opened up on the convoy in the Sunni stronghold of Azamiyah, said the official, who also spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media.

Elsewhere in the capital, a booby-trapped car abandoned on a main road in a western area blew up when police attempted to extract a dead body they found inside.

The blast in the Amil district killed two policemen and wounded six people, including three more policemen, said police officials, also speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the media.