Video: More violence hits Iraq

updated 4/30/2006 8:03:09 PM ET 2006-05-01T00:03:09

President Jalal Talabani has met with insurgent representatives and is optimistic they may agree to disarm, his office said Sunday — the first time a senior Iraqi official has acknowledged talks with the armed groups.

Bombs and drive-by shootings Sunday killed nine people in Iraq, and the bodies of seven Iraqi men who apparently were kidnapped and tortured were found in three areas of the capital.

The deadliest attack Sunday involved a roadside bomb that exploded on a highway south of Baghdad, killing three security contractors and wounding two. Police said the victims were all British. The British Embassy in Baghdad and the Foreign Office in London confirmed the attack but did not yet know the victims’ nationalities, identities or employer.

In a statement, Talabani’s office quoted him as saying: “I think we may reach an agreement with seven armed groups that visited me and I met with them.”

It did not say when the meeting happened. Talabani spokesman Kamran Qaradaghi refused to identify the groups, although they were presumed to be Sunni Arab insurgents.

First admission of contact
U.S. officials have said privately they have conferred directly with Iraqis who claimed to have contacts with insurgents; this was the first time a top Iraqi official acknowledged any such contacts.

However, Ibrahim al-Shammari, spokesman of the Islamic Army in Iraq, denied that his group had met with Talabani or any U.S. officials.

“Our strategic choice is to resist the occupation by armed force,” al-Shammari told Al-Jazeera television. “We neither met the Americans, nor the U.S ambassador, nor with the (Iraqi) government because it is an illegal government with no credibility.”

Last year, Talabani, a Kurd, offered to meet with representatives of insurgent groups except al-Qaida in Iraq or Saddam Hussein loyalists.

The statement quoted Talabani as saying al-Qaida in Iraq, led by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, had declared a “genocide against the Iraqi population. “But there are groups other than the Saddamists and Zarqawists who joined the armed operations for the purpose of fighting the occupation,” Talabani said.

He said he was trying to establish a dialogue with those insurgents to urge them to “join the political process.”

The statement said Talabani made the comments Saturday during a cultural festival in Kurdistan, the Kurdish-self ruled area in the north.

PM-designate builds Cabinet
Meanwhile, Iraqi Prime Minister-designate Nouri al-Maliki continued to meet with politicians to choose his Cabinet for Iraq’s new national unity government — one aimed at calming sectarian tensions and luring disaffected Sunni Arabs away from the insurgency.

Al-Maliki has promised to finish the job in the next two weeks, but it could be difficult to fill top Cabinet posts with politicians unaffiliated with parties whose armed militias are blamed for sectarian violence.

Khalid Mohammed  /  AP
An Iraqi mother sits in a hospital with her son who was wounded in a mortar attack on Friday in Baghdad. At least 10 people were wounded, mostly children, when a mortar round hit a house in western Baghdad.
In an interview Saturday with National Public Radio, U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad said of al-Maliki: “It’s good to have a deadline, but I think perhaps he’s being optimistic. It will be tough for him.”

The roadside bomb hit an SUV carrying the contractors at 9:30 a.m. about 30 miles south of Baghdad, killing three people and wounding two, an Iraqi policeman said, speaking on condition of anonymity to protect his own security.

Policeman killed in elaborate ruse
One of the most brutal killings Sunday occurred in the town Jurf al-Saghar, south of Baghdad. Residents discovered a corpse inside a private car and called police. When several officers arrived, explosives packed inside the vehicle were set off by remote control, killing one policeman and wounding two, said police Capt. Muthana Khalid.

The bullet-ridden bodies of seven Iraqi men also were found in three different areas of Baghdad. All had been tortured and killed in captivity, police said. Such sectarian violence by Sunni Arab and Shiite death squads has become common lately in Baghdad.

In other violence Sunday:

  • Four drive-by shootings in Baghdad killed four civilians, including Talib Niama, an employee in the Trade Ministry.
  • A roadside bomb hit a U.S. military convoy in central Tikrit, the hometown of deposed leader Saddam Hussein, said police Maj. Ahmed Awad said. He said the blast set a Humvee ablaze, causing U.S. casualties, but the U.S. command could not immediately confirm that.
  • In Ramadi, 70 miles west of Baghdad, gunmen attacked three policemen traveling in a car carrying the salaries of police in Fallujah, killing one, wounding another, and kidnapping the third with the bag of money, police said.

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