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At least 63 killed in Iraq market attacks

Dozens wounded; bloodshed is the worst seen in a day across the nation

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A U.S. soldier and Iraqi police inspect the wreckage of a vehicle used in a car bomb attack in Ramadi, 60 miles west of Baghdad, on Tuesday.
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Updated: 9:32 p.m. ET March 27, 2007

BAGHDAD - Two truck bombs shattered markets in Tal Afar on Tuesday, killing at least 63 people and wounding dozens in the second assault in four days on a predominantly Shiite Muslim city hit by a resurgence in violence a year after it was held up as a symbol of U.S. success.

After the bombings, suspected Sunni insurgents tried to ambush ambulances carrying the injured out of the northwestern city but were driven off by police gunfire, Iraqi authorities said.

The carnage was the worst bloodshed in a day of attacks across Iraq.

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A major Sunni Arab insurgent group reported its military leader was slain outside Baghdad, an assault likely to deepen an increasingly bloody rift between al-Qaida in Iraq and opponents of the terror group in Sunni communities west of the capital.

In Baghdad, a U.S. soldier and an American working as a U.S. government contractor were killed by a rocket attack on the heavily guarded Green Zone, U.S. officials said. Another contract worker suffered serious wounds and three were slightly wounded. A soldier also was wounded.

A U.S. Marine died during combat operations in Anbar province, a hotbed of Sunni Arab insurgents west of Baghdad, the military said in a statement.

U.S. soldiers, meanwhile, foiled two suicide truck bombers trying to attack their base in a small town 50 miles west of Baghdad and killed as many as 15 attackers, the military said. It said eight soldiers suffered wounds, all but one of them slight, during the firefight in Karmah.

More than 100 dead nationwide
Iraqi police reported at least 109 people killed or found dead nationwide. The toll included two elderly sisters — both Chaldean Catholic nuns in the increasingly tense city of Kirkuk — who were stabbed multiple times in what appeared to be a sectarian killing.

Most of the bloodshed in Tal Afar came when an explosives-laden truck was detonated by remote control as people gathered to buy flour it was carrying in the center of town, 260 miles northwest of Baghdad. A few minutes earlier, a truck loaded with vegetables blew up near a wholesale market on the city’s north side.

Brig. Abdul Karim al-Jubouri, a spokesman for the provincial police, said the first blast killed at least 62 people and wounded 150. The other bomb killed one person and wounded four, he said.

Insurgents waiting in cars on Tal Afar’s outskirts tried to intercept ambulances carrying the wounded to hospitals in nearby Mosul but fled when police escorts opened fire, said Husham al-Hamdani, head of the security committee in Mosul.

Jaafar Akram, a teacher at a school near the smaller explosion, said body parts were scattered about and vegetables lay in pools of blood.

“I instantly saw smoke, then I heard the blast,” Akram said. “Thanks be to God the blast didn’t occur during rush hour at the school. That reduced the disaster.”
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On Saturday, a man wearing an explosives belt blew himself up outside a pastry shop in Tal Afar’s central market area, killing at least 10 people and wounding three.

Tal Afar, which is about 90 miles east of the Syrian border, is inhabited mainly by ethnic Turkomen. About 60 percent of the residents are Shiite Muslims and the rest Sunni.

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