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Suicide attackers kill 29 in Baghdad

Disguised pair hit Interior Ministry

BAGHDAD -- Two suicide bombers disguised as police infiltrated the heavily fortified Interior Ministry compound in Baghdad and blew themselves up yesterday during celebrations of National Police Day, killing 29 Iraqis.

The attackers died before getting near the US ambassador and senior Iraqi officials at the festivities, but the blasts capped a particularly deadly week for American and Iraqi forces.

The escalating violence after the Dec. 15 parliamentary elections -- at least 498 Iraqis and 54 US troops have been killed -- took place as Iraq's electoral commission again delayed releasing the results of the vote.

An Internet site known for publishing extremist material from Al Qaeda in Iraq leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi carried a claim of responsibility for yesterday's suicide attack, saying it was in revenge for the torture of Sunni Arab prisoners at two detention facilities run by the Shi'ite-led Interior Ministry.

The claim, which could not be independently verified, referred to reports that more than 100 abused prisoners were recently found in the jails -- bolstering complaints by Sunni Arabs about the treatment of detainees by Interior Ministry forces. Another alleged Zarqawi statement rebuked Sunni Arabs for participating in the parliamentary elections, saying they had ''thrown a rope" to US policy.

Meanwhile, the US military said eight soldiers and four American civilians died aboard a Black Hawk helicopter that crashed Saturday in northern Iraq.

Sunni Arabs also expressed anger over a raid Sunday by US troops on the Umm al-Qura mosque, Baghdad headquarters of the Association of Muslim Scholars, a Sunni clerical group that is believed to have ties to some insurgent groups.

The mosque is in the al-Adel neighborhood, one of Baghdad's roughest and the same area where the American journalist was kidnapped.

A US military official, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the situation, said the raid was a necessary immediate response to the kidnapping, based on a tip provided by an Iraqi citizen. The military said Sunday that six people were detained. No other details were released.

The suicide attack on the sprawling Interior Ministry compound came after a particularly deadly four-day period for Americans, with 28 killed since Thursday, including 24 troops.

At least 2,207 US service members have died since the war started in 2003, according to an Associated Press count.

The bombs exploded in quick succession about 1,500 feet from the parade being watched by US Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad, Interior Minister Bayan Jabr, Defense Minister Sadoun al-Dulaimi, and hundreds of others.

None of the officials was hurt and the ceremony was not interrupted, said Lieutenant Colonel Barry Johnson, a US military spokesman. He said the explosions ''had no impact on the ceremony and did not require anybody to take cover."

The first bomber was shot by the police, but his explosives detonated. A second bomber detonated his explosives. One bomber was wearing the uniform of an Iraqi police major and the other was dressed as a lieutenant colonel. Both had passes that enabled them to get through checkpoints and into the compound. At least 29 people were killed and 18 wounded, most of them policemen, said Ala'a Abid Ali, an official at al-Kindi hospital.

In other developments:

Ibrahim Bahr al-Uloum, who resigned as oil minister last week over increases in consumer fuel prices, resumed his old post after the prime minister and president asked him to do so, Iraq's Council of Ministers said.

Gunmen assassinated an investigative judge in Kirkuk.

Five bodies, bound and blindfolded, were found shot to death in Baghdad late Sunday.

A car bomb exploded west of Baqubah yesterday, killing two civilians.

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