Suicide bomb kills five, approaching 2,000 Americans dead in Iraq war

An insurgent blew up his car in a Baghdad square, killing four people in the first significant suicide bombing in the capital in weeks. More than 20 Iraqis died in a swell of violence, including a bomb that killed a police colonel and four children. Still, with the toll among American service members in the Iraq war approaching 2,000 dead, the U.S. military said it has hampered insurgents' ability to unleash more devastating suicide bombings with a series of offensives in western towns that disrupted militant operations.

"We have interrupted the flow of the suicide missions into the large urban areas. Certainly, we have had success denying free movement of car bombs into Baghdad," Brig. Gen. Donald Alston told reporters in the capital.

"It is also a function of Iraqi citizens who have come forward and with their support we have found car bomb factories. We have found a series of large weapon caches," he said.

In Sunday's attack, the bomber plowed his explosives-laden car into two police vehicles in downtown Tahrir Square at 11:30 a.m., killing two police officers and two civilians. U.S. troops rushing to the scene in Humvees found bystanders tending to 11 wounded.

In the past, Baghdad has been heavily battered by deadly suicide attacks, with a string of them killing nearly 700 people from April 1 to early September.

But amid the intensified security clampdown, suicide car bombings have been greatly reduced in recent weeks across the country, and those that have occurred have caused fewer casualties.

Sunday's attack was the deadliest suicide attack in the capital since a Sept. 26 attack killed seven people near the Oil Ministry.

Roadside bombs hit three separate U.S. convoys in Baghdad on Sunday morning, wounding a total of five soldiers, a military spokesman, U.S. Sgt. 1st Class David Abrams, said.

The violence came after a week in which 23 U.S. soldiers were reported killed, raising to 1,996 the number of military personnel who have died since the war began in March 2003, according to an Associated Press count.

A suicide car bomber rammed into a U.S. military convoy Sunday morning in the northern oil-rich city of Kirkuk, killing two civilians and wounding 13.

Attacks also flared in north-central Iraq. The slaying of the police colonel and the four children came in Tikrit, 80 miles (130 kilometers) north of Baghdad.

Lt. Colonel Haitham Akram had just left his home and was getting into his car with his two sons when a bomb nearby went off, killing the three of them, police Lt. Qusay Mushaal said. The explosion set a nearby car ablaze, killing two young girls, aged 7 and 9.

Around the city of Baqouba, east of Tikrit, a string of drive-by shootings killed a police lieutenant, three civilians and a Shiite student-cleric, according to the AP.

Gunmen also killed three Iraqis driving a water truck to an Iraqi army base on a highway near Taji, north of Baghdad, police Lt. Abdul-Razaq al-Hayali said.

In Baghdad, gunmen opened fire on a car carrying Shiite workers, killing one and wounding two. Insurgents also killed a leader of a Shiite anti-Saddam group and his driver in their car on a highway outside the southern city of Amarah, police said.