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Three insurgent attacks kill 21 Iraqis

Interim president warns against delaying elections

Insurgents staged attacks Sunday in Tikrit, near Beiji and in Samarra. Car bombs exploded Saturday in Mosul and Baghdad.
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The bloody weekend in Iraq continues with three deadly attacks.

Bombs go off outside Baghdad's Green Zone.

Holdout insurgents make life difficult in Falluja. (Viewer discretion is advised.)
• Interactive: Who's who in Iraq
• Interactive: Sectarian divide

BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- Twenty-one Iraqis -- 17 civilians working for U.S.-led coalition forces and four Iraqi security personnel -- were killed Sunday in three separate insurgent attacks, U.S. military officials said.

The attacks were the latest in what officials have described as attempts by insurgents to derail the country's scheduled January 30 elections.

Iraq's interim president said Sunday the country would be handing a victory to "the forces of darkness" if it postponed the elections.

"We do not think that postponing elections or delaying it will solve the problem," interim President Ghazi al-Yawar said. "Actually, it will prolong the agony for Iraqis, and you will have more resentment in the Iraqi society."

He told NBC's "Meet the Press" that the date was not "sacred," but "This is a challenge that Iraqis have to take." (Full story)

His comments followed remarks by U.N. envoy Lakhdar Brahimi, who helped establish the interim government, that Iraq was currently "a mess."

In an interview published Sunday, Brahimi told the Dutch newspaper NRC Handelsblad that elections could not be held under current security conditions.

Series of attacks

The 17 civilians died when insurgents attacked them as they were going to work about 8:30 a.m. Sunday near the north-central city of Tikrit, officials said.

Occupants of two vehicles opened fire on buses that had stopped to let off the workers.

The victims worked for civilian contractor Buckmaster Inc., a U.S. military spokesman said.

The company collects weapons found on insurgents and in weapons caches and takes them to facilities to be destroyed.

The civilians were working at these storage facilities on Tikrit's outskirts.

Thirteen other civilians were wounded, and were taken to hospitals in Tikrit.

In a later attack, at least three Iraqi national guard members were killed and 18 wounded in a suicide car bombing in northern Iraq.

The bomb exploded about 9:30 a.m. at a national guard checkpoint near a U.S. military base west of Beiji.

In Samarra, north of Baghdad, insurgents attacked an Iraqi army convoy about 6:30 a.m., killing one Iraqi soldier and wounding four others with rocket-propelled grenades and small-arms fire, said Capt. Bill Coppernoll, spokesman for the Tikrit-based U.S. 1st Infantry Division.

On Saturday, 15 Kurdish security personnel were killed and 25 were wounded in a car bombing. The bomb detonated about 4 p.m. in front of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan headquarters in the northern city of Mosul, U.S. military officials said.

The security personnel were in a bus in front of the headquarters, officials said. Fifteen of those injured returned to work.

Also Saturday, twin car bombs that exploded at an entrance gate to Baghdad's Green Zone area, near an Iraqi police station, killed 16 people and wounded 38, government officials said. Among the dead were five Iraqi police officers.

Other developments

  • Five U.S. soldiers who refused to go on a supply mission in Iraq that they considered too dangerous will not be court-martialed, but will receive other punishment, the U.S. military said Sunday. As many as 19 members of the Army's 343rd Quartermaster Company were under investigation after they refused on October 13 to make a supply run. The soldiers said their fuel trucks lacked the armor needed for the mission and were in bad shape. Under military law, non-judicial punishment can include reprimands, reduction in rank, restriction to barracks or fines. (Full story)
  • The U.S.-led invasion of Iraq was a mistake that has made the world a more dangerous place, but a swift withdrawal would make matters worse, Pakistan's president says. "I think it's less safe," Gen. Pervez Musharraf said on CNN's "Late Edition with Wolf Blitzer." Asked whether he considered the invasion a mistake, the Pakistani leader said, "With hindsight, yes. We have landed ourselves in more trouble, yes." (Full story)
  • As part of an agreement with coalition forces, the Iraqi Red Crescent, the only humanitarian organization in Falluja, said Sunday it will temporarily suspend its operations in the city west of Baghdad, the scene of a U.S.-led operation aimed at flushing out insurgents. (Full story)
  • The increase in U.S. troop strength in Iraq announced last week is not likely to be enough, Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona, said Sunday. The United States is dispatching an additional 1,500 troops to Iraq and extending the stays of more than 10,000 others to bolster security ahead of January's scheduled elections, the Pentagon said. (Full story)
  • On Saturday, two American soldiers were killed and four wounded in an attack on a multinational force patrol in Mosul, U.S. military officials said. Earlier Saturday, a U.S. soldier died when a roadside bomb exploded in eastern Baghdad, and another soldier was killed when a roadside bomb went off near Al-Ghalibiya, west of Baquba, American military officials said. The number of U.S. troops who have died in the war stands at 1,273.
  • CNN's Mohammed Tawfeeq contributed to this report.

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