Insurgent Violence Heightens Ahead of Iraqi Constitution Vote

In the deadliest attack in nearly two weeks, a suicide car bomb exploded at about 11 a.m. in a crowded open market in the town of Tal Afar near the Syrian border, killing 30 Iraqis and wounding 45, said Tal Afar’s police chief Brig. Najim Abdullah, the Associated Press reported.

Abdullah said all the victims appeared to be civilians, since no Iraqi or U.S. forces were in the center of Tal Afar. The two country’s forces had staged a major offensive against insurgents in the town last month.

U.S. and Iraqi officials have warned that those hoping to undermine Iraq’s democratic transition will step up their violent attacks.

Insurgents also used two suicide car bombs, three roadside bombs and four drive-by shootings in the capital Baghdad to kill 14 Iraqis and injure 29 on Tuesday, reported the AP.

On Saturday, Iraqis will vote on a draft constitution, which Kurds and the majority Shiites support but the Sunni minority opposes. Officials from all sides are meeting this week in a last-ditch attempt to work out their differences.

Many Sunnis worry the document will create nearly autonomous Kurdish and Shiite mini-states in the north and south, leaving most Sunnis in central and western Iraq under a weak central government in Baghdad.

Militants are demanding that Iraqis boycott the referendum and have killed at least 384 people in the last 16 days in a series of attacks, according to the AP.

Meanwhile, prosecutors from Iraq’s criminal court have issued arrest warrants for the former defense minister and two dozen other officials in connection with the alleged misappropriation of more than $1 billion from Iraqi government coffers, investigators said Tuesday.

Judge Radhi al-Radhi, the head of the Commission on Public Integrity charged with investigating government corruption, told Reuters 23 warrants had been issued, with the most high-profile for former defense minister Hazim al-Shaalan. Officials from the criminal court were not immediately available for comment.

Under al-Shaalan, the Defense Ministry allegedly bought about $1.3 billion in military supplies that were inappropriate and out of date.

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