Suicide car bomber kills seven in Iraq
* National Guard found dead in Fallujah
* Allawi promises to ensure safety of voters
* Loud explosions heard in central Baghdad
* South Korea extends Iraq troop mission
BAIJI: A suicide car bomber killed seven people, five of them Iraqi National Guards, near the northern town of Baiji on Friday, as the insurgent campaign to wreck the Jan 30 election gave no sign of a New Year lull.
Elsewhere in the Sunni Arab heartlands, another National Guard was found shot dead near Fallujah with a note on his body warning others against working with US forces. Interim Prime Minister Iyad Allawi told Iraqis in a live New Year’s Eve phone-in on state television that his government would still do all it could to ensure voters’ safety.
The reinforced US army of 150,000 and other allied troops would be on hand, along with the new Iraqi security forces, he said. Osama Bin Laden and other Islamist groups have this week pledged to wreck the vote as part of a holy war in Iraq.
“Iraq will be solid and strong in its political and social system, a united Iraq in a stable and secure region,” Allawi said later in New Year message to the nation as the familiar sound of occasional mortar fire echoed over central Baghdad. Three loud explosions rattled central Baghdad Friday night, minutes after Iyad Allawi delivered the speech.
It was not clear what caused the blasts. A lull in attacks after US forces stormed the Sunni bastion of Fallujah, west of the capital, appears to have ended.
A note attached to the bullet-riddled body of the Guard found dead outside Fallujah read: “This is the fate awaiting anyone who collaborates with the occupier.”
At Siniya, west of the oil refining town of Baiji, a suicide bomber drove his car at a checkpoint, killing five National Guards and two civilians, Guard Captain Raad Jassim told Reuters. Two other civilians were shot dead by Guards nearby when they failed to stop at a checkpoint, hospital staff said.
In Mosul, scene of a suicide bombing at a US base last week which cost the Americans their heaviest single casualty toll of the war, troops were active. They said they killed a gunman among a group which fired on them from a mosque.
In Samarra, sporadic gunfire and explosions marked another day of skirmishing between guerrillas and US troops. Two police officers were killed, police said.
The prime minister of autonomous Kurdistan, in the northern mountains, said that Arabs in Kirkuk should be denied the vote, accusing the present government of accepting the result of a deliberate campaign by Saddam to “Arabise” the city.
“They are playing with an issue of destiny for the Kurds and want to legitimise the present situation. They insist on denying more than 100,000 Kurds the franchise and let Arab families that used to live in the south vote,” Nechirvan Barzani told Reuters. “We don’t want to create problems. But there is always the possibility that Kurds could pull out of the elections if our objections keep being ignored.” South Korea’s parliament approved on Friday a one-year extension of the country’s troop deployment in Iraq.
The assembly voted by 161 to 63 to keep 3,600 troops in the northern Iraqi region of Arbil on a peace and reconstruction mission until the end of 2005. There were 54 abstentions. South Korea has the third-largest foreign military contingent in Iraq after the US and Britain. agencies