Iraq takes over 12th province from US; Bombing Kills 11

Iraq took control of the central Shiite province of Babil from US forces on Thursday in what officials declared was a further sign of security gains across the war-torn nation.

But shortly before the handover, a suicide bomber rammed his explosives-filled car into the convoy of a Shiite cabinet minister in Baghdad, killing 11 people although the official emerged unscathed.

Babil, known for its ancient archaelogical treasures but also a string of bloody attacks on Shiite pilgrims in the aftermath of the 2003 US-led invasion, is the 12th of Iraq’s 18 provinces to be put under Baghdads command.

The move comes amid continuing negotiations between Baghdad and Washington over a security pact that will provide the framework for the presence of US troops after a UN mandate expires at the end of 2008.

Local officials hailed the role of former Sunni rebels who joined US forces in fighting Al-Qaeda for improving security in Babil, whose northern region was known as “the triangle of death” because so much blood was spilled.

via AFP: Iraq takes over 12th province from US

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