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  Officials: Bomber kills 3 outside Iraqi mosque
   Apr 1, 1:54 PM (ET)

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    BAGHDAD - A suicide bomber disguised as a street cleaner walked up to soldiers outside a mosque and blew himself up Friday, killing two of the troops and a worshipper in a western Iraqi city that was once an al-Qaida hotbed.

    The blast wounded six other people, including four soldiers who were stationed outside the Fallujah mosque to protect worshippers, according to a senior city police official.

    The unit's commander, an army colonel, was among the dead, the official said.

    A local health official confirmed the casualties. Both officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to release the information.

    The mosque is near a government compound that houses offices for Fallujah's mayor, city council, police and courts.

    Fallujah, 40 miles (65 kilometers) west of Baghdad in the Sunni-dominated Anbar province, was once a capital for Iraq's insurgency and the site of two deadly battles in 2004 with American forces. Those fights were triggered by the horrific deaths of four U.S. contractors who were killed and mutilated in Fallujah, and their charred bodies dragged through the streets before two of them were hung from a bridge.

    Today Fallujah is a gritty city near a major Iraqi highway that is beset with occasional bursts of violence.

    Extremist attacks have dropped dramatically from just a few years ago, when scores of daily killing between Iraqis' Sunni insurgents and Shiite militias brought the country to the brink of civil war. But deadly bombings and shootings still happen every day across the country.

    Also Friday, an estimated 65 people were wounded in a demonstration in the northern city of Sulaimaniyah when protesters began hurling stones at security forces. City health official Rekard Rasheed said at least 38 of the injured were policemen in the melee of protesters demanding better government services, ending corruption and more jobs in the autonomous Kurdish region in Iraq's north.

    A similar, if peaceful protest was held in Baghdad's Tahrir Square, drawing several hundred government critics.


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