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Baghdad suicide blast kills 10

U.S. military warns of rise in attacks ahead of October 15 vote

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• Interactive: Who's who in Iraq
• Interactive: Sectarian divide

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Iraq
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BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- A suicide car bombing killed 10 people and wounded eight others Thursday near the Iraqi Oil Ministry in eastern Baghdad, police said. The bomb detonated in a red Kia minibus.

A roadside bomb also killed a U.S. soldier on patrol on a highway in northwest Baghdad, said a spokeswoman for the U.S. 3rd Infantry Division.

The death brought the number of U.S. troops killed in Iraq to 1,947.

Earlier Thursday, a suicide car bomber targeted a convoy of private American security contractors in central Baghdad, wounding eight Iraqi civilians, police said.

The violence came amid continued warnings by the U.S. military that insurgents may seek to disrupt the October 15 referendum on the new Iraqi constitution with an uptick in attacks.

About 152,000 U.S. troops are currently in Iraq, up from 140,000 over the summer, a short-term increase will last at least through the October 15 vote, a Pentagon spokesman said Thursday,

Brig. Gen. Carter Ham, deputy director of operations for the region, said most of the increase came from the deployment of part of the 82nd Airborne Division from Fort Bragg, North Carolina, coupled with a pause in normal troop rotations out of Iraq.

Some troops scheduled to go home before the referendum were kept on duty until it is over, Ham told a Pentagon press briefing.

Ham said attacks on U.S. troops are on the rise, car bombings in particular. "Since about April, May, that had been going down, just every month, until last month. And then in September of '05, it started to come back up again," he said.

In Baghdad, a coalition spokesman said the same rise in insurgency strikes occurred as the January 30 elections approached.

"Democracy equals failure for the insurgency, specifically for al Qaeda in Iraq, and they're going to do everything they can do to derail the democratic process," said Maj. Gen. Rick Lynch, a multinational forces spokesman.

Speaking at his weekly press conference Thursday in Baghdad, Lynch said Iraqi security forces were making strides in numbers and competence, noting the number of trained and equipped police and soldiers had grown from 138,000 in January to 195,000.

Just this week, Lynch said, the 6th Iraqi Army Division took over authority of Baghdad's Kharkh, Rusafa, Thawra and Adhamiyah districts from the coalition's Task Force Baghdad.

Iraqi troops also have played important roles in operations along the Euphrates River corridor -- where insurgents slip into the country from Syria, he said.

Lynch said the killing and capture of insurgents in operations such as River Gate and Iron Fist in western Anbar province and Mountaineer in Ramadi have eroded the command structure of terrorists and foreign fighters.

Thursday's violence followed a massive suicide bombing Wednesday inside a Shiite mosque in central Hilla, a mostly Shiite city in Babil province 60 miles (100 kilometers) south of the capital. The bombing left 36 dead and 95 wounded, according to a hospital official.

The explosion occurred during afternoon funeral services for a Shiite Muslim killed in an earlier attack, police said. The blast destroyed part of the Ibn al-Nima mosque.

The attack was the second in five days in Hilla. On Friday, a bomb in a parked car at a crowded vegetable market killed eight people and wounded 49, Iraqi police and hospital officials said.

That explosion took place near the local governor's office, a police official said.

Sectarian civil strife has persisted in Iraq, with a largely Sunni Arab insurgency targeting the Shiite-Kurdish power structure and Shiite Arabs themselves.

Shiites make up about 60 percent of Iraq's population and faced persecution under the regime of Saddam Hussein, who is a Sunni Muslim.

Other developments

  • In a high-profile address Thursday, President Bush said the U.S. war on terrorism is not limited to Iraq but is a worldwide conflict against a movement that should not be appeased. He said that Iraq represents "the central front in our war on terror." (Full story)
  • British Prime Minister Tony Blair said Thursday that new explosive devices used against coalition troops in Iraq may have come from Iran or the Lebanese-based militant group Hezbollah. "However, we cannot be sure of this at the present time," and the matter is under investigation, Blair said. Iran has denied smuggling allegations (Full story)
  • The U.S. Senate voted overwhelmingly Wednesday to include an amendment to a Pentagon spending bill that would require American troops to follow interrogation standards set in the Army Field Manual and bar "cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment" of prisoners in U.S. custody. The White House has threatened a veto. (Full story)
  • The Pentagon issued regulations Wednesday for reimbursing soldiers who bought their own body armor and other protective equipment. The rules come almost eight months after a deadline passed by Congress. (Full story)
  • The Iraqi National Assembly reversed itself Wednesday, changing election rules that would have made approval of a draft constitution a virtual certainty. The rule change had been criticized by the United Nations and by Iraq's Sunni minority, which had threatened to boycott the crucial October 15 vote on the draft constitution. (Full story)
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