BAGHDAD, Iraq – The governor of the northern Iraqi city of Mosul (search) was assassinated in an ambush Wednesday, hours after an attacker detonated a car bomb outside the fortified enclave housing the headquarters of Iraq's interim government, killing at least 10 people.
The bombing -- which also wounded 40 people -- was the worst attack in the capital since the United States transferred power to the Iraqis on June 28. The violence sent a strong signal that insurgents view the new government as an extension of the U.S. occupation.
"This is a naked aggression against the Iraqi people," interim Prime Minister Iyad Allawi said as he toured the bombing scene. "We will bring these criminals to justice."
Allawi said the bombing was retaliation for the government's arrests of terror suspects. Police said they rounded up over 500 suspected criminals in one sweep this week.
As Iraqi officials vowed to crack down on the insurgents, the Philippines moved to withdraw its 51-member peacekeeping force in hopes of saving the life of Angelo dela Cruz (search), a Filipino truck driver held by militants.
The withdrawal was criticized by some as caving in to terrorists, but Filipino officials said now was not the time for debate. "What is important now is the safety of Angelo," Vice President Noli di Castro said.
Another militant group headed by Jordanian militant Abu Musab al-Zarqawi (search) killed one of two Bulgarian truck drivers it was holding, the Bulgarian government confirmed Wednesday. In a video shown on Al-Jazeera television, the group, which had demanded the release of Iraqi detainees, also threatened to kill the second hostage.
Also, the owner of a Saudi company told Al-Jazeera television his company would stop work in Iraq to win the release of an Egyptian employee held captive. The network said the Iraqi Legitimate Resistance group kidnapped 42-year-old driver Alsayeid Mohammed Alsayeid Algarabawi and demanded the unidentified company leave Iraq within 72 hours. The group issued no specific threat.
The violence Wednesday began about 9:15 a.m. when a homicide bomber detonated a car packed with 1,000 pounds of explosives at a checkpoint just outside the so-called Green Zone, former site of the U.S. coalition authority and now home to Iraq's interim government and the U.S. and British embassies.
The blast killed 10 Iraqis, many as they waited to apply for jobs with the government, the Health Ministry said. The U.S. military said 11 people were killed.
The blast ripped a deep crater in the road, left five cars charred skeletons and partially destroyed a wall meant to protect the area. Black smoke rose into the air.
"I'm sure that those who committed this were targeting the Iraqi Defense Ministry and its employees, not Americans," said Iraqi air force staff Col. Ather Burham Shafiq, 39, as he lay in al-Karama Hospital with a broken leg and shrapnel wounds.
Hours later, insurgents tossed hand grenades and fired machine guns at a convoy transporting Nineveh Gov. Osama Youssef Kashmoula, killing him and two of his guards, Iraqi and U.S. military officials said. Mosul is the largest city in Nineveh province.
Kashmoula was attacked between the cities of Beiji and Tikrit north of Baghdad as he headed to the capital, the U.S. military said.
Insurgents have repeatedly attacked local officials who are seen as being collaborators with American forces, but had not killed an official as senior as Kashmoula since the assassinations last month of Iraq's most senior career diplomat and a top Education Ministry official.
Gunmen also killed Sabir Karim, an Industry Ministry auditor, in a drive-by shooting Tuesday as he was leaving his Baghdad office, authorities said Wednesday. He is the second Iraqi government auditor to be slain.
Since taking power, Allawi's government has made clear it intended to crack down on insurgents who have caused chaos for nearly 15 months with assassinations, bombings, sabotage and other attacks. The violence has hampered efforts to rebuild and recover after war and years of international sanctions.
Allawi said he had provided the intelligence for a U.S. airstrike on a suspected al-Zarqawi safehouse in Fallujah last week that killed 15 people. The government has passed emergency laws giving Allawi the power to declare curfews and impose limited martial law to curb the violence.
The government has repeatedly threatened the militants, and on Monday police said they detained more than 500 "criminals, kidnappers and looters" in Baghdad.
On Wednesday, a statement posted on a Web site and attributed to al-Zarqawi claimed responsibility for a mortar attack near Allawi's home last week. The statement said the militant's group would continue to pursue Allawi, whom insurgents view as a collaborator with President Bush and the 160,000 foreign troops in Iraq.
"We are after you," the statement said.
Violence around the country since the transfer of power has killed scores of U.S. soldiers, Iraqi national guardsmen and Iraqi civilians.
But Baghdad, despite several daylight gunbattles and fatal mortar attacks, was relatively calm before the devastating bombing Wednesday.
The U.S. military in Baghdad had staged a major counterinsurgency operation -- including checkpoints, raids on suspected insurgent hideouts and extra patrols -- to prevent attacks that could disrupt the handover of power. That operation ended by the beginning of this week.
The attacks Wednesday, a holiday commemorating the 46th anniversary of the nationalist coup that overthrew Iraq's last king, Faisal II, sent a clear message the insurgents were not going to halt their attacks despite the transfer of authority and the government's tough talk.
Meanwhile, U.S. Marines clashed Wednesday with insurgents in Ramadi, a stronghold of support for Saddam Hussein's former regime. The Marines suffered no casualties, but said a "significant" number of insurgents died and that no civilians were hurt.
However, Dr. Allaa al-Ani of the Ramadi Hospital said the attacks killed three people and wounded 19.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.