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National Guard members on patrol (file photo) 2 January 2005 -- At least 21 people were killed when two suicide bombers rammed a car into a bus carrying Iraqi National Guards today.

The attack happened in the city of Balad, some 80 kilometers north of Baghdad.

Eighteen members of the National Guard were reported killed as well as a female civilian who was near the scene of the explosion, plus the two bombers.

A group loyal to Jordanian-born terrorist Abu Mus'ab al-Zarqawi claimed responsibility for the attack and vowed more would follow.

The attack came one day after a group linked to al-Zarqawi reportedly killed five members of the Iraqi National Guard. A video released on the Internet showed the five men being executed by masked militants.

Hundreds Arrested

Meanwhile, the Iraqi National Guard released a statement today, claiming they had detained 228 suspected insurgents in the area dubbed "the triangle of death," south of Baghdad.

The statement said National Guard forces had raided the Mahmudiya area, detaining suspects and seizing a large quantity of weapons.

In another operation, the guardsmen captured Hatem al-Zawbai, believed to be the head of an insurgent group called the 1920 Revolution Brigades. Ten other suspects were detained trying to return to Mahmudiya from Mosul, according to the statement.

The violence comes as Iraq is preparing for national elections on 30 January. Insurgents trying to drive out U.S. occupation forces and topple Iraq's U.S.-backed government have killed hundreds of Iraqi security force members since a U.S.-led invasion in 2003.

(Reuters/AFP/AP)
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