Bomber kills 2 in Iraq


A female suicide bomber struck an Iraqi army convoy carrying senior officials today in Baqouba, killing at least two people, the U.S. military said. It was the second suicide attack by a woman in Diyala's provincial capital in as many days.

The bombing also came a day after the Iraqi government announced a weeklong suspension of its military operations in the area north of Baghdad to give suspected insurgents time to surrender.

The woman was targeting the convoy as it carried an Iraqi commander and the provincial governor in the city center, but she was forced to detonate her explosives prematurely and missed the officials after guards noticed her suspicious behavior, officials said.

Iraqi police initially said the bomber was a man. But the U.S. military in northern Iraq said American soldiers at the site had confirmed the attacker was a woman.

The attack came a day after another female suicide bomber struck a market checkpoint in Baqouba, killing at least one policeman and wounding 14 other people, including nine officers.

Provincial Gov. Raad Rashid al-Tamimi, who escaped today's attack, ordered an indefinite curfew in the city.

Internal tensions have been high in Diyala, which has been one of the hardest areas to control since the insurgency broke out after the 2003 U.S. invasion.

The provincial council voted on Monday to fire Diyala police chief Gen. Ghanim al-Qureyshi, a Shiite who has frequently been accused of sectarian bias in the ethnically volatile province, which now has a slight Sunni majority.

"We have warned al-Qureyshi many times but he did not take heed," provincial council chief Ibrahim Majilan said, accusing the police chief of unilaterally dismissing experienced officers without cause and interfering in local government issues.

An official with the Interior Ministry, which oversees the Iraqi police force, said the ministry would agree to the decision if it receives the required nominations from the provincial council for a replacement.

The ministry had not yet received any names for a replacement, though it won't object to replacing the current chief if that is what the council wants, said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he wasn't authorized to speak to the media.

Interior Ministry spokesman Maj. Gen. Abdul-Karim Khalaf refused to comment on the issue.

Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki launched a U.S.-backed government crackdown in the province last month in a bid to oust al-Qaida in Iraq led insurgents from rural hideouts where they had fled previous offensives in other major cities.

But the Iraqi Defense Ministry announced Monday that Iraqi military operations in Diyala would be suspended for a week "to give gunmen a chance to surrender."

U.S. military spokeswoman Maj. Peggy Kageleiry said American troops in the province were not observing any pause and were continuing operations.

Elsewhere, U.S. soldiers captured nine suspected militants linked to what the military called an Iranian-backed group known as the Hezbollah Brigades in northern Baghdad on Monday and today.

Tips indicated that one of those captured was believed to control at least one militant cell in the southern city of Basra and was involved in smuggling weapons and fighters across the Iranian border into Iraq, a military statement said.

The military said the Hezbollah Brigades allegedly receives funding, logistics support and weapons from Iran along with "guidance or direction" from Iran's elite Quds Force, a branch of the Revolutionary Guard.

Tehran has denied U.S. allegations that it is support violent groups in Iraq.


Associated Press writer Bushra Juhi contributed to this report.

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