Suicide car bomb explodes outside children’s hospital in Baghdad

A suicide car bomb exploded outside a children's hospital in western suicide car bomb exploded outside a children's hospital in western Baghdad on Monday, killing at least two people and wounding 11, including seven policemen, officials said. Police believe the bomb had been targeting a passing convoy carrying a police colonel, who was among the injured. In western Baghdad, gunmen attacked the convoy of the city's Deputy Gov. Ziad Tariq, killing three civilians and wounding three of Tariq's bodyguards, Baghdad police said. Tariq was not injured.

U.S. officials on Saturday released eight individuals formerly designated as high value detainees after a board process found they were no longer a security threat and no charges would be filed against them, Lt. Col. Barry Johnson, a military spokesman in Baghdad, said Monday.

The military would not release any names, but the Arab satellite television channel Al-Arabia reported that nine former senior officials of the Saddam Hussein regime had been released, including the former minister of higher education.

The video did not show the face of the victim, however, and it was impossible to identify him conclusively. The victim was kneeling with his back to the camera, with his hands tied behind his back and blindfolded with an Arab headdress when he was shot.

A string of violent attacks, including shootings and bombings, began Saturday night, shattering the relative calm since Iraq's parliamentary election last week.

In a speech Sunday, U.S. President George W. Bush praised the vote and warned against a pullout of U.S. forces.

Hours before Bush spoke, U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney made a surprise visit to Baghdad, saying the election's strong turnout had brought Iraq closer to taking control of its own security. But Cheney also cautioned against a rapid U.S. withdrawal.

Bush said last week's voting would not end violence in Iraq but "means that America has an ally of growing strength in the fight against terror." He warned that a U.S. troop pullout would "signal to the world that America cannot be trusted to keep its word."

"We would hand Iraq over to enemies who have pledged to attack us, and the global terrorist movement would be emboldened and more dangerous than ever before," he said.

The German government, meanwhile, said Sunday that kidnappers had freed a German woman taken hostage with her driver in northern Iraq more than three weeks ago. Susanne Osthoff, a 43-year-old aid worker and archaeologist, was reported in good condition in the care of the German Embassy in Baghdad.

It was unclear whether Osthoff's Iraqi driver had also been freed. Osthoff and driver disappeared Nov. 25. Days later, the two were shown in a videotape blindfolded and sitting on a floor, with militants, one armed with a rocket-propelled grenade, standing beside them.

The captors threatened to kill them unless Germany stopped dealing with the Iraqi government. While Germany strongly opposed the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq and refused to send troops here, it does train Iraqi soldiers and police outside this country.

In other violence Monday, gunmen opened fire on a bus carrying university students in central Baghdad, injuring two, police said, while in the south of the capital, 12 gunmen in three cars attacked a police checkpoint with rocket-propelled grenades. Two police and two civilians were injured, Capt. Haqi Mgotir of the Interior Ministry said.

Iraqi authorities were still tallying the ballots from Thursday's election that will determine the allocation of parliament's 275 seats for a four-year term. Election official Safwat Rashid said the commission had so far received 345 complaints about the election, more than half claiming violations of campaigning rules, reports the AP. I.L.

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