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Iraq Transition

Iraq education minister resigns after mass kidnappings

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BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- Iraq's higher education minister turned in his resignation Wednesday citing the government's inability to protect teachers.

Abed Dhiyab al-Ajili's action came a day after dozens of gunmen snatched scores of educators and other people from a Baghdad research institute.

"I have to protect my people," al-Ajili said Wednesday.

Around 70 employees had been freed by Wednesday night. Another 40 were missing, al-Ajili said.

When asked by CNN if he planned to follow through with his resignation, al-Ajili said that in recent weeks Iraq's education establishment has become a target of sectarian attacks and that the situation must change. (Watch how violence imperils Iraq's education, future -- 2:17 Video)

"If it will not be resolved, I will resign," he said.

Al-Ajili added that Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki has ordered a crackdown on the culprits and that he was awaiting the outcome.

The fate of many of the people abducted Tuesday at the Ministry of Higher Education building remained unclear. (Full story)

The kidnappers also took an unknown number of people who were not employees but were in the building, al-Ajili said.

Emergency police in Baghdad have been unable to provide more specific numbers on how many people were kidnapped. (Watch police investigate scene of kidnapping -- 2:01)

The Interior Ministry has ordered the arrests and interrogations of several high-ranking police officers over their handling of security in the area. (Map)

Al-Maliki shows solidarity with students, professors

In an appearance Wednesday at Baghdad University, al-Maliki promised better security and no disruptions to education.

He said the government "will do all it takes to keep education going and we hope to see you graduate and join the process of building the country."

"The universities are important for the heart of society, and it must remain above and distant from any quotas -- partisan and sectarian," he said in a speech.

Although universities across Baghdad had reopened their doors Wednesday, some students didn't show up for classes.

17 killed in Baghdad attacks

Seventeen people were killed Wednesday in attacks in Iraq's capital, Iraqi officials reported.

Twelve people were killed and 33 wounded when a car bomb exploded next to a fuel station in central Baghdad, a Baghdad emergency police official said.

In southern Baghdad's Dora district, a suicide car bomber drove into a funeral tent, killing three mourners and wounding 12, the official said.

A member of al-Yarmouk municipal council and his driver were killed by gunmen Wednesday afternoon as they drove in the neighborhood in western Baghdad, the official said.

And a car bomb explosion in the Shaab neighborhood wounded three people around 6:30 p.m., according to the official.

Meanwhile, 55 bullet-riddled bodies were discovered throughout the capital on Wednesday. The identities of the victims were not immediately known, the official said.

In Mosul, a journalist with the weekly newspaper al-Massar and her driver were killed Wednesday, a Mosul police official said.

The official said gunmen intercepted Fadiah Mohammed al-Taie's car while she was going to work and sprayed it with bullets. Mosul is about 400 kilometers (248 miles) north of Baghdad.

Another journalist who wrote articles for the al-Massar newspaper was shot and killed in western Mosul on Monday, police and hospital officials said. Mohammed al-Ban also worked as a cameraman for al-Sharqiya TV.

Before the two latest deaths, 85 journalists and 37 support workers had been killed in the Iraq war, including at least 10 in Mosul, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists.

Six U.S. service members killed

Six U.S. service members died Tuesday in Iraq, according to U.S. military statements released Wednesday.

Two soldiers were killed in northwest Baghdad late Tuesday by a roadside bomb during combat, the military said. They were members of Multi-National Division - Baghdad.

A soldier assigned to the Army's 1st Brigade, 1st Armored Division and three Marines assigned to Regimental Combat Team 7 were killed "due to enemy action" in Anbar province, the military said in another statement.

The deaths brought to 2,852 the number of U.S. troops killed in the Iraq war. Seven American civilian contractors of the military also have died in the conflict.

Gen. John Abizaid, the top U.S. general in Iraq, expressed optimism Wednesday that "we can stabilize Iraq" but warned against setting timetables for the withdrawal of troops. (Watch Abizaid field questions on troop levels -- 1:43 Video)

His comments came during testimony on Capitol Hill, the first congressional appearance by a commander since the midterm elections last week and the resignation of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. (Full story)

Fifteen detained in raids

Iraqi and U.S.-led coalition forces detained 15 suspects in raids this week, a U.S. military statement said Wednesday.

Iraqi soldiers backed by coalition advisors detained eight suspected members of "a kidnapping and murder cell responsible for abducting, torturing and murdering Iraqi civilian and Iraqi security forces" on Tuesday.

A similar raid by coalition forces in Baghdad on Monday netted six suspected insurgents linked to al Qaeda in Iraq, another U.S. military statement said. A seventh person was also detained.

Insurgents killed planting bomb

Three insurgents were killed earlier this week when they were trying to plant a roadside bomb in western Mosul, the U.S. military said Wednesday.

A fourth insurgent and two bystanders were wounded in the incident, which took place Monday, the military said.

The bomb contained a 155 mm artillery round, the military said.

CNN's Mohammed Tawfeeq, Ingrid Formanek, Michael Ware and Jomana Karadsheh contributed to this report.

Eight people died Wednesday in this car bomb explosion near a fuel station in Baghdad.

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