Basra police chief targeted again in roadside bomb

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BASRA, Iraq, Nov 7 (Reuters) The police chief of Iraq's southern city of Basra escaped assassination for the second time in four days today when a roadside bomb exploded near his convoy, a police source said.

Major-General Abdul-Jalil Khalaf was unhurt but four of his guards were wounded, the police source told Reuters on condition of anonymity. The attack took place in Zubayr, a predominantly Sunni Arab town south of Basra.

A convoy carrying Khalaf and the head of the Iraqi army in the region, General Mohan al-Firaiji, was attacked by a roadside bomb at the weekend. Both men were unhurt but two guards were wounded.

Firaiji and Khalaf were sent to Basra, the hub of Iraq's southern oil fields and its gateway to the Gulf, in June to improve security in the city, which has witnessed a violent turf war between rival Shi'ite militias.

There have been a number of attempts on their lives. The British, who plan to hand over Basra to Iraqi security control in mid-December, see Firaiji and Khalaf as key to stabilising the region and reining in the militias.

REUTERS PD SSC1528

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