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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Bomber Strikes Iraqi Party's Offices

BAGHDAD -- A suicide bomber killed nine people at the party headquarters of the Iraqi president, as fierce gun battles between supporters of an anti-American Shiite cleric and Iraqi forces left at least six people dead Tuesday, officials said.

The suicide bomber blew up his bomb-rigged truck in the car park of the headquarters of Iraqi President Jalal Talabani's party, the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, in the northern city of Mosul.

At least five civilians and four Kurdish security personnel, known as Peshmergas, were killed, said police Colonel Abdul-Kareem Ahmed al-Jibouri. He said 41 people were injured in the blast, which damaged the one-story office building and set 17 cars on fire.

In the southern city of Karbala, Shiite gunmen and security forces exchanged gunfire for several hours Tuesday near one of Iraq's holiest shrines containing the mausoleum of Hussein, a revered figure in Shiite history.

The fighting in the relatively peaceful Shiite-dominated south presents a new headache for the unity government of Iraq and U.S. forces, who are trying to control a Sunni insurgency and sectarian fighting between Shiites and Sunnis.

The violence, which has occurred mostly in the predominantly Sunni provinces in and around Baghdad, has surged since a Feb. 22 bombing of a Shiite mosque. The sectarian violence is claiming more than 1,000 lives every month around Baghdad alone.

A Karbala Health Directorate official said six people were killed and five people were wounded in the Karbala fighting. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media.

The fighting spread over at least five neighborhoods of Karbala around the office of Mahmoud al-Hassani, a little-known cleric who came into prominence after the ouster of Saddam Hussein in 2003.

The fiercely anti-American al-Hassani is believed to have several thousand followers. His whereabouts have remained unknown since his office was raided in 2004 by Polish soldiers, part of the U.S.-led coalition forces in Iraq.

But his followers were out in force Tuesday, wielding AK-47 rifles, heavy machine guns and rocket-propelled grenades that they fired at army patrols before running away. Soldiers fired indiscriminately at groups of gunmen roaming the streets.

The trouble started after Iraqi soldiers raided al-Hassani's office before dawn, apparently in search of weapons. However, Ahmed al-Ghazali, an aide to the cleric, said the raid resulted because al-Hassani's supporters had taken over a field behind the building for security reasons.