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Truck bomb kills 105 in northern Iraq

Agencies
Jul 07, 2007 at 09:13pm IST

Baghdad: Over 100 people were killed in a sudden surge in violence in Iraq on Saturday when a truck bomb devastated a crowded village market and demolished many homes, police and local officials said.

The truck bomb ripped through a bustling outdoor market in the northern town of Tuz Khurmato on Saturday, killing over hundred people and wounding many others, police said. The bomb levelled shops and small houses, and police said they feared the death toll could rise.

"105 Iraqis were killed and five are missing. We have registered their names. There are more than 250 wounded," an official in charge of security coordination in nearby Tuz Khurmatu said.

HUGE LOSS: US military says six of its soldiers had been killed in the past two days.

Jasim Ali, 30, said he looked frantically for his wife when he heard the explosion. "I ran to the market and saw burned cars along with dead and wounded people everywhere. I screamed until I found my wife. She was wounded in the head and her hand," said Ali, his clothes stained with his wife's blood.

In another incident, a suicide car bomber killed 22 people and wounded 17 others when he drove his vehicle into a group of Shia Kurds near Iraq's border with Iran on Friday evening.

Ibrahim al-Bajilam, head of the local council in Garghoush village, said the victims were returning from a funeral. The village is in Diyala province, where U.S. and Iraqi forces last month launched an offensive against Sunni Islamist al Qaeda.

The US military said roadside bombs killed four soldiers in Baghdad, three on Friday and one on Thursday. It said two Marines were killed in combat in Anbar province on Thursday.

One British soldier was killed in Basra during an operation involving 1,000 British troops to flush out suspected militants, the military said. Three others were wounded. "British forces were exposed to a large number of attacks by IEDS (improvised explosive devises), RPGs (rocket-propelled grenades) and small arms, which resulted in the death of one British soldier and the injury of three others," the military said in a statement.

Also overnight, a mortar bomb killed seven members of one family as they slept on their roof in the Sunni neighbourhood of Fadhil in central Baghdad, police said. They included a couple and their four children, aged nine to 17.

New Delhi: The Army has called for fresh international bid to acquire the 52-calibre 155 mm towed gun even after conducting four rounds of trial with three competitors; a move experts fear would delay the forces' modernisation programme.

Top military sources said fresh tenders would be a jolt to Army's artillery modernisation programme as it would mean that it would take another six to eight years for the much-needed gun to be inducted into the Army.

The 52-calibre 155-mm towed guns are capable of firing nuclear shell to a distance of upto 50 km. The three competitors are Denel of South Africa, Soltam of Israel and BAE-SWS Bofors system.

While infantry and armoured formation modernisation drive in the Army has been in full swing since 2001, artillery, a vital arm has seen no quantum leap in its fire power.

Though India has concluded a deal to acquire long-range SMERCH multi-barrel rocket system, the deal has run into a logjam over pricing squabbles with Russians.

Under the artillery deal worth Rs 4,000 crore at present price level, India was to acquire 400 155 mm L 52 towed guns off the shelf and manufacture thousand guns in the country under technology transfer, providing New Delhi first exposure to indigenous use of such technology.

In a related move, government has already refloated request for proposals (RFP) for acquiring 100 self-propelled and 180 wheeled 155 mm and 52-calibre guns. However, the time for both the bids have been extended twice for lack of response.

In the towed guns, Army has already held four rounds of trials in 2002, 2003, 2004 and 2006 to check general staff qualitative requirements (GSQR) parameters in desert and high altitude conditions during NDA and present UPA regimes. In response to Army's RFP issued in 2001, three bidders Denel of South Africa, Soltam of Israel and BAE-SWS system took part in trials.

The South African company, which was blacklisted on allegations of payoff in another deal, was not allowed to participate in third round of trials. The BAE-SWS and Soltam continued to be evaluated in fresh trials in 2004 and 2006.

After the fourth round of trial, Soltam was asked to take back its guns as it had failed to meet GSQR parameters. BAE-SWS system was asked to keep their guns in India and its guns were moved from Chandigarh to field artillery unit in Gurgaon near New Delhi.

The government move to go in for fresh international tenders comes at a time when the artillery fire power in the Army is dipping in the absence of induction of longer-range powerful guns. Eight Army regiments are having Bofors 155 mm .39 calibre guns and assortment of Russian 130 mm and 105 mm light mountain guns.

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