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24 die in fresh Iraq violence

BAGHDAD: Blasts and clashes throughout the country and a fire at an oil refinery killed more than 24 people yesterday.

Two suicide bombers struck in a Sunni district of Baghdad, killing 14 people including the leader of a US-backed neighbourhood security patrol.

One of the bombers detonated an explosive vest, the other struck with a car bomb.

The US military blamed Al Qaeda for the attacks, saying the attacks provided "perhaps the clearest proof of the nature of this enemy that will destroy the very people and neighbourhoods of whom it claims to protect".

Chanting mourners carried the bodies of Colonel Riyadh Al Samarrai and some of his slain bodyguards through the streets of the mainly Sunni Arab Adhamiya neighbourhood, where the colonel led volunteer patrols in the pay of US forces.

Other blasts in Baghdad killed five people, including a bomb hidden in a market cart that killed four in the central Karrada district and a pair of roadside bombs that killed a civilian in southern Jadiriya district.

Police also found five bodies of men handcuffed, blindfolded and shot in the head in Diyala province, and gunmen killed a member of a neighbourhood patrol working as a carpenter, inside his shop in Samarra.

Meanwhile, an explosion at a fuel storage tank caused a huge blaze at Iraq's largest refinery, killing four workers and inflicting burns on 24 others.

An engineer at Baiji refinery, 180km north of Baghdad, said the blast had destroyed the plant's LPG unit, where the fire had broken out. He blamed the fire on an accident.

Separately, Iraq's Kurdish deputy prime minister Barham Saleh yesterday said he supported the annexation of Kirkuk to the self-ruled Kurdish region but warned of strife if the country's rival ethnic and religious groups did not resolve their dispute over the northern oil-rich city.



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