Violence in Iraq kills dozens


BAGHDAD, Iraq -- A day after Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki unveiled a sweeping reconciliation plan to negotiate peace with Sunni Arab insurgent groups, violence killed 38 people around Iraq.

Bomb attacks in Baghdad and Diyala province, and an explosion in Hillah, the heartland of al-Maliki's leading Islamic Dawa Party reinforced skepticism among top Shiite lawmakers about the prime minister's effort.

A suicide bomber rode a bicycle into a village market near Baqubah -- in the area where U.S. forces killed Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, leader of al-Qaida in Iraq, this month -- and detonated a bomb vest, killing 20 Iraqis, many of them children.

"He's just a baby! He's just a baby!" cried a father in a hospital hallway as his young son, a victim of the blast, bled on a bare hospital mattress. The floor was slick with blood.

U.S. forces stationed nearby treated at least 30 injured people after local authorities complained that the Baghdad-based Health Ministry had failed to supply Baqubah's hospital with X-ray machines and blood.

The attacks could create further obstacles for al-Maliki's plan. In interviews yesterday, high-ranking leaders of the prime minister's Shiite bloc said they support the plan in theory but doubt that it will placate the insurgents.

The insurgency is so disparate, and insurgent leaders so unreliable, that identifying legitimate negotiating partners is nearly impossible, Shiite leaders said.

Al-Maliki's plan calls for Sunni insurgent groups to identify themselves so that they can take part in negotiations.

"First they must identify themselves through mediators," said Sheikh Humam Hamoodi, a Shiite lawmaker who chaired the Iraqi constitutional drafting committee. "Then they can present their demands and enter the political process."

No insurgent group has done so, Shiite leaders said.

Hadi Amri, a parliament member and leader of the Badr Organization, one of Iraq's largest Shiite paramilitary groups, said it is unlikely that the anonymous insurgents will come forward.

"In theory, everybody would like to reconcile with the Sunni resistance. But that's why it was so easy to pass in parliament, because no one believes it can happen," said Haider Abadi, a lawmaker who is a senior member of al-Maliki's political party.

Al-Maliki's plan to reconcile with Sunni resistance groups is deliberately vague, the product of months of negotiations with U.S. and Iraqi officials.

Among the most puzzling aspects of the plan is the prime minister's intention to distinguish between insurgents "not proved to be involved in crimes, terrorist activities and war crimes against humanity" and those who renounce violence and agree to submit to Iraqi law.

Shiites pointed to the continued violence yesterday as evidence that past efforts to involve more Sunnis in the government have failed to bring about peace.

A second suicide bomber on a motorcycle detonated an explosive-laden vest in Baghdad, killing two police commandos. Gunmen fired on an Iraqi army patrol, killing two soldiers. A car bomb exploded near another army patrol, killing five more soldiers. And a group of gunmen kidnapped 10 students.

In Kirkuk, insurgents killed a university professor. In a separate incident, a man was kidnapped near a bus depot. Kirkuk police also discovered a beheaded body.

The bombing at the Hillah market killed six Iraqis and injured 56 others.

The Associated Press reported that a Marine died during military operations in Ramadi, an insurgent hotbed in the western Anbar province.

Solomon Moore writes for the Los Angeles Times. Times reporters Louise Roug, Saif Hameed and Raheem Salman, and correspondents Ali Windaw and Saad Fakhrildeen contributed to this article.

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