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Governor escapes injury in suicide blast
Mideast IraqBAG102 5099017
An Iraqi soldier from the 1st Battalion, 17th Iraqi Army Division, holds an Iraqi flag during a handover ceremony with the U.S. military, in Latifiyah, about 30 kilometers (20 miles) south of Baghdad in Iraq, Tuesday, Aug. 12, 2008. - photo by Associated Press
    BAGHDAD — A female suicide bomber blasted an Iraqi convoy north of Baghdad on Tuesday, killing two people but narrowly missing a provincial governor in the second suicide attack by a woman in Diyala province in as many days.
    Gov. Raad Rashid al-Tamimi ordered an indefinite curfew in Diyala’s provincial capital of Baqouba, where the attack occurred.
    It happened a day after Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s government announced a weeklong suspension of military operations in Diyala to give militants a chance to surrender.
    Al-Tamimi and the commander of Iraqi ground forces, Gen. Ali Ghaidan, were traveling to a meeting of the provincial council in Baqouba when the woman detonated her explosives as the vehicles approached, U.S. and Iraqi officials said.
    Neither the governor nor the general was injured, they said.
    The attack could have been more devastating, but the attacker triggered her explosives prematurely — possibly because she feared guards had spotted her, officials said.
    On Monday, a female suicide bomber struck a checkpoint at a market in Baqouba, killing one policeman and wounding 14 other people, including nine police.
    Diyala, stretching northeast from Baghdad to the Iranian border, has proven among the most difficult of Iraq’s 18 provinces to pacify, in part because of its complex mixture of Sunnis, Shiites and Kurds.
    The Islamic State of Iraq, an al-Qaida front organization, declared Baqouba as its capital after Sunni extremists shifted operations from Anbar province following a revolt by Sunni Arab tribes there.
    Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the founder of al-Qaida in Iraq, was killed in Diyala by a U.S. airstrike in June 2006.
    Many Sunnis in Diyala feel disenfranchised. Shiites hold a disproportionate share of power, including the governorship, because many Sunnis boycotted the last provincial election in January 2005.
    A bill to hold new provincial elections failed to win parliamentary approval this month because of a dispute over power-sharing in the northern Iraqi oil center of Kirkuk.
    Al-Maliki launched a military operation in Diyala last month, hoping to replicate successes against Shiite and Sunni militants in Baghdad, the southern city of Basra and the northern city of Mosul.
    On Monday, the Iraqi Defense Ministry said military operations would stop in Diyala for a week ‘‘to give gunmen a chance to surrender.’’ U.S. military spokesman Col. Jerry O’Hara said U.S. and other multinational forces would comply with the directive.
    Military operations were continuing elsewhere.
    The U.S. military said American soldiers in Baghdad captured nine people linked to the Hezbollah Brigades, a Shiite extremist group that the U.S. believes is backed by Iran — a charge the Iranians deny.
    A U.S. statement said the militants were seized in a series of raids in the north of the capital on Monday and Tuesday.
    One of those apprehended was believed to control a militant cell in Basra and was involved in smuggling weapons and fighters from Iran, the U.S. statement said.
    U.S. troops also detained 12 people believed linked to al-Qaida in Iraq, a Sunni group, during raids in the Baghdad area and Mosul, 225 miles northwest of the capital.
    American troops also handed over a patrol base to the Iraqi army in Latifiyah, 20 miles south of Baghdad.
    U.S. officials said the handover signaled greater confidence in the Iraqis to control the area, once known as the Triangle of Death because of frequent attacks by Sunni extremists against Shiite civilians and U.S. troops.
    Also Tuesday, the speaker of Iraq’s parliament, Mahmoud al-Mashhadani, flew to Jordan for treatment of high blood pressure and heart problems, his office said. Al-Mashhadani, a Sunni Arab, was hospitalized in July after fainting during a parliament session.

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