SULAIMANIYAH, Iraq (AP) – A suicide car bomb exploded near a regional government ministry in a predominantly Kurdish province of Sulaimaniyah on Tuesday, killing at least nine people and wounding four, a security official said.
The U.S. military also announced that two Marines were killed by a roadside bomb during fighting with insurgents on Friday near Amiriyah, a village in western Baghdad. That raised to 1,999 the number of members of the U.S. military who have died since the beginning of the Iraq war in March 2003, according to an Associated Press count.
The blast in Sulaimaniyah occurred on the outskirts of the city right outside the ministry that houses Kurdish forces known as peshmerga. It killed six peshmerga and three civilians and wounded two peshmerga and two civilians, said Lt. Col. Taha Redha, a peshmerga official.
It was one of two suicide attacks by insurgents on Tuesday in the generally peaceful province, which is 260 kilometers (160 miles) northeast of Baghdad.
About 45 minutes earlier, a suicide car bomber rammed his vehicle into a seven-car convoy carrying Mullah Bakhtiyar, a senior Kurdish official in President Jalal Talabani”s Patriotic Union of Kurdistan party, said police Col. Najim Al-Din Qader. The blast in Sulaimaniyah city wounded two of the convoy”s guards and damaged two of its cars, Qader said.
Sulaimaniyah, the city and province have the same name, is where the PUK party is based, and it is considered one of the most peaceful areas of Iraq.
In Baghdad, insurgents used three bombs and five shootings on Tuesday to kill two people, a boy and a policeman, and wound 34 Iraqis, most of them police officers, officials said.
The roadside bomb that killed the 7-year-old Iraqi boy exploded in Askan, a commercial district, hitting pedestrians and destroying several parked cars, said police Capt. Qassim Hussein and Dr. Mohammed Jawad at Yarmouk Hospital. The nine wounded civilians in that attack included a 10-year-old Iraqi girl, Hussein and Jawad said.
Another policewoman died in Mosul, a city 360 kilometers(225 miles)northwest of Baghdad, when militants shot her, police said.
As the U.S. military death toll in the Iraq war nears the landmark total of 2,000, the Iraqi death toll is unknown, but estimates range much higher.
Iraq Body Count, a British research group that compiles its figures from reports by the major news agencies and British and U.S. newspapers, has said that as many as 30,051 Iraqis have been killed since the start of the war.
Other estimates range as high as 100,000.
U.S. and coalition authorities say they have not kept a count of such deaths, and Iraqi government accounting has proven to be haphazard.
In another development, Independent Electoral Commission of Iraq was expected on Tuesday to announce final results in the country”s landmark constitutional referendum, which was held on Oct. 15 under tight security to prevent insurgent attacks at polling stations.
Many Sunni Arabs oppose the draft document, believing it would divide Iraq into three competing regions, but to defeat the constitution the minority needs to produce a two-thirds "no" vote in three of Iraq”s 18 provinces.
Kurds or majority Shiites favor the document, and that has been clear in the solid "yes" vote of many of the provinces where they form a majority.
On Monday, the Electoral Commission released the final tallies in 14 of the country”s 18 provinces. It said the constitution was overwhelmingly rejected in two: Anbar by nearly 97 percent and Salahuddin by about 82 percent. Both are predominantly Sunni Arab.
That is why attention was now focusing on the results of Ninevah, an ethnically mixed northern province where Sunnis could theoretically produce enough "no" votes to defeat the constitution. Ninevah has been a focus of fraud allegations since preliminary results showed an overwhelming majority of voters had approved the constitution, despite a significant Sunni Arab population there.
But representatives of the commission reiterated on Monday that they had found no cases of election violations that significantly affected results.
If approved, the constitution would be another major step in the country”s democratic transformation, clearing the way for the election of a new Iraqi parliament Dec. 15. Such steps are important in any decision about the future withdrawal of U.S.-led forces from Iraq.