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Bomb kills 15 at Iraq recruiting site

Al Qaeda calls Sunni official 'this criminal'

A funeral procession was held in Baghdad yesterday for six men killed by rockets allegedly launched by US helicopters. US officials said they were looking into the report. (ALI AL-KHALZALI/ASSOCIATED PRESS)

BAGHDAD -- Al Qaeda in Iraq called the country's Sunni vice president a criminal for participating in the US-backed government, and a suicide bomber struck army recruits west of Baghdad yesterday, killing at least 15 people in another warning to Sunnis not to cooperate with the Shi'ite leadership.

The suicide attack in the mostly Sunni town of Abu Ghraib was the deadliest in a series of attacks that left at least 74 people dead nationwide.

The verbal attack on Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi was purportedly delivered by Al Qaeda leader Abu Hamza al-Muhajir, also known as Abu Ayyub al-Masri, in an audiotape posted on an extremist website only days after Iraqi authorities contended that he had been killed.

During the 21-minute speech, the Al Qaeda leader criticized Hashemi as "this criminal" who "relentlessly calls" for US troops to remain in Iraq. Hashemi has resisted calls by fellow Sunni leaders to quit the Shi'ite-dominated government.

The speaker also denied any clashes between Al Qaeda and other "jihadist groups or our blessed tribes," saying reports to the contrary by US and Iraqi authorities were only "lies and a desperate attempt to drive a wedge within the ranks of the jihadists."

Iraqi officials announced last week that Masri had been killed in an internal fight among Al Qaeda members; they could not produce a body, and US officials said they could not confirm the report.

The audiotape -- the first word from Masri since his reported death -- was posted on a militant website and appeared to be a clear warning to Sunnis against cooperating with the Shi'ite-dominated government.

Hours later, a video was released showing Osama bin Laden's deputy mocking the nearly 3-month-old Baghdad security plan, recounting the April 12 suicide bombing at the Iraqi parliament cafeteria in the US-controlled Green Zone, when a bomber slipped through security and blew himself up, killing one Sunni legislator.

"And lest Bush worry, I congratulate him on the success of his security plan, and I invite him on the occasion for a glass of juice, but in the cafeteria of the Iraqi parliament in the middle of the Green Zone," Ayman al-Zawahri said.

Zawahri also attributed Iraq's Shi'ite-Sunni violence to "individuals and groups in Iraq who do not want the coalition forces to leave," but contended that Al Qaeda fighters in Iraq were "nearing closer to victory over their enemy."

No group claimed responsibility for the Abu Ghraib attack, in which a bomber walked into an Iraqi Army recruiting center in the predominantly Sunni town and blew himself up amid a crowd of recruits, police said.

The dead included 10 recruits and five soldiers, officials said. Another 22 people were wounded.

US officials say a growing number of Sunni tribes are turning against Al Qaeda, particularly in the western Anbar Province, as they are repelled by the group's brutality and religious extremism.

A suicide car bomber tore through a police station in western Baghdad, killing a police officer.

The bodies of five police officers dressed in civilian clothes were found late Friday in a deserted field north of Baghdad.

They had bullet wounds and bore identity documents showing they were from the Sunni city of Ramadi.

At least 50 other Iraqi civilians were killed or found dead yesterday, including three youths who died in a mortar attack while they were playing soccer in a southern Shi'ite enclave in Baghdad and two people killed when a bomb hidden under a car exploded in the predominantly Shi'ite neighborhood of Karradah in the center of the capital.

In a separate development, Iraq's top judicial authority has asked parliament to lift immunity for Adnan al-Dulaimi, a prominent Sunni lawmaker, possibly clearing the way for his arrest on charges of provoking sectarian violence, The New York Times reported in today's editions.