Meanwhile in Iraq…

Another heroic blow by the Iraqi “insurgents”… against Shi’ite civilians. From AP, July 17:

Iraqi oil official kidnapped; 26 die in bombing

BAGHDAD – A suicide bomber detonated explosives yesterday inside a cafe packed with Shias in northern Iraq, killing 26 people and injuring 22, an Iraqi general said. And gunmen seized a top Oil Ministry official, the second major kidnapping in as many days.

Later, the U.S. military said an American soldier was killed in a roadside bombing in south Baghdad. No further details were released.

In the south, a British soldier was killed and another wounded during a raid against a “terrorist suspect” in Basra, the British military said. British troops arrested a top Shia militia leader in Basra, Iraqi police said, but it was unclear if the two events were linked.

The suicide attack occurred in the outdoor market in Tuz Khormato, a mostly Turkomen city 130 miles north of Baghdad, Maj. Gen. Anwar Mohammed Amin said.

The powerful blast collapsed the ceiling of the one-story cafe, burying many of the victims, witnesses said. Hours afterward, rescuers were still sifting through the debris looking for the dead or injured. Authorities used mosque loudspeakers to appeal for blood donations.

Turkomen, one of Iraq’s main ethnic groups, follow both the Sunni and Shia traditions of Islam, Amin said. The motive for the attack was unclear.

In Baghdad, gunmen seized Adel Kazzaz, director of the North Oil Co., shortly after he left the Oil Ministry in eastern Baghdad, ministry spokesman Assem Jihad said. They beat his bodyguards and whisked him away, Jihad said.

The government-owned North Oil Co. runs Iraq’s oil fields around the northern city of Kirkuk, and Kazzaz was in the capital for a meeting with ministry officials.

The high-profile kidnapping came one day after gunmen abducted the head of Iraq’s National Olympic Committee and 30 other people.

Six were set free yesterday in eastern Baghdad, left blindfolded and unharmed, Iraq’s Sport Journalist Union said. There was no word on the other hostages, including the Olympic National Committee chairman, Ahmed al-Hijiya.

In Basra, police officials said British troops had arrested Sajid Badir, leader of the Shia-based Mahdi Army. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because of fears of retaliation by the militia group, which wields considerable power and has infiltrated the police.

Also in Baghdad yesterday, a bomb hidden in a trash bag exploded in the Karradah district, killing four people and wounding 21 others, police said. One person was killed and two were wounded when a bomb exploded near a police patrol in north Baghdad.

See our last reports on Iraq, the sectarian cleansing, and the struggle for Iraq’s oil.