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Iraq: Rocket blows up in police vehicle, kills 4

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By BUSHRA JUHI
The Associated Press
Thursday, November 4, 2010; 3:03 PM

BAGHDAD -- A rocket confiscated by authorities blew up in the back of a police pickup truck in northern Iraq on Thursday, killing four people. Two other people died in a roadside bomb explosion west of Baghdad.

The deaths come just days after the Iraqi capital was hit by a series of horrific attacks that claimed more than 150 lives.

At least 91 people died Tuesday night in a string of bombings in the city's predominantly Shiite districts while 58 died in a four-hour siege of a Baghdad church during Sunday Mass.

Iraq's Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki strongly condemned the assault on the Catholic church in downtown Baghdad, calling it an "evil terrorist attack that targeted our Christian brothers."

Speaking during a meeting with Iraq's top Catholic prelate, Chaldean Cardinal Emmanuel III Delly, al-Maliki vowed Thursday to protect Iraq's churches and urged Christians to stay in Iraq to defy those who are trying to "destroy national unity and ignite sectarian conflict."

During the meeting, Delly asked al-Maliki to enhance security measures around the churches as soon as possible, said a priest who was briefed on the meeting. He did not want to be identified because he was not authorized to speak to the media.

Sunday's attack on Baghdad's Catholic Church of Our Lady of Salvation was the deadliest ever recorded against Iraq's Christians. Their numbers have plummeted since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion as the community has fled to other countries while Shiite and Sunni militias in 2006 and 2007 fought bitterly for political control, killing tens of thousands of civilians.

Al-Qaida's front group in Iraq claimed responsibility for Sunday's assault on the church in downtown Baghdad. The group, known as Islamic State of Iraq, threatened more attacks on Christians, saying they would be targeted wherever they are found.

While violence has significantly subsided in Iraq in the past years, insurgents continue to target Iraq's security forces, government institutions and officials, as well as larger gatherings of civilians.

In the town of Shurqat, 155 miles (250 kilometers) northwest of Baghdad, Iraqi officials said police on Thursday found a rocket and loaded it onto their pickup truck. The rocket detonated when the vehicle began to move, killing two policeman and two civilians.

In a separate incident, police and health officials said a roadside bomb exploded in western Iraq, killing a local official and his driver near the town of Hit, 85 miles (140 kilometers) west of Baghdad.

All officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the media.

--

Associated Press Writer Sameer N. Yacoub contributed to this report from Amman, Jordan.


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