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Killing Of Iraqi Leader Condemned

Wreckage of one of the cars destroyed in attack 17 May 2004 -- There has been worldwide condemnation of the car bombing in Baghdad today that killed the president of the Iraqi Governing Council, Abd al-Zahra Uthman Muhammad, who was also known as Izz al-Din Salim.

Uthman was among several people killed in the bomb blast at the gate to the U.S.-led coalition compound in Baghdad.

Coalition spokesman Dan Senor said at a press conference in Baghdad today that the coalition is working on improving security for council members.

"We are constantly evaluating their [Iraqi Governing Council members'] security, looking at ways to improve it, as we are with our own force protection. In fact, we are in the process of establishing a professional protective service for the Iraqi government, which will be modeled, at least in concept, after the United States Secret Service and similar force-protection services for governmental bodies and officials throughout the world," Senor said.

The deputy director of U.S. military operations in Iraq, Brigadier General Mark Kimmitt said that the car bombing that killed Uthman bears "the classic hallmarks" of wanted terrorist Abu Mussab al-Zarqawi.

Kimmitt said at a news conference that today's attack was in keeping with the modus operandi of al-Zarqawi.

"This has the classic hallmarks of what we have seen on Zarqawi attacks: suicidal bomb, spectacular effect, trying to go after a large number of civilians and also trying to do after a symbol, in this case two symbols -- obviously and clearly, a high government official for the Governing Council as well as near a coalition checkpoint," Kimmit said.

In Berlin, U.S. national security adviser Condoleeza Rice condemned the killing, but cautioned that with the approach of the 30 June deadline for handing over sovereignty to the Iraqis, efforts to carry out such attacks could be expected to increase.

UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan condemned the bombing, calling it a "criminal assassination."

In other news, Brigadier General Kimmitt said that in the past 24 hours, U.S. forces have killed some 50 militiamen loyal to renegade Shi'a cleric Muqtada al-Sadr in fighting around the cities of Al-Nasiriyah and Karbala. The United States said today it will pull some 4,000 troops out of South Korea and transfer them to Iraq.

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