BAGHDAD, Iraq – Suicide car bombers struck a southern Baghdad neighborhood three times Thursday, leaving as many as 23 Iraqi police dead in the second day of torrid violence in the capital.

The latest attacks occurred as Iraqi President Jalal Talabani addressed the United Nations and called on world leaders to redouble their efforts to help his country.

Talabani asked the world community to be patient with Iraq as it tries to cobble together a working democracy and fights a determined insurgency. He once again appealed to creditor nations to cancel mountainous debt that Iraq had accumulated under the former regime.

“Today, Iraq is facing one of the most brutal campaigns of terror at the hands of the forces of darkness,” Talabani said.

Thursday’s violence comes after 14 car bombings in and around Baghdad a day earlier that left scores dead, including 112 people killed when a suicide car bomber detonated his vehicle near a gathering point for day laborers looking for work. Nearly 200 people have been killed in two days of bombings and ambushes.

Maj. Gen. Rick Lynch, the chief U.S. military spokesman in Iraq, described the worsening violence as a predictable attempt by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the leader of the terror organization Al Qaeda in Iraq, to “derail democracy.”

In a message posted on a Web site used by terrorist organizations and attributed to Al-Qaida in Iraq, the group said Wednesday’s violence was a response to the recent joint operations by U.S. and Iraqi forces in Tal Afar to rid the northern city of insurgent elements. In a tape recording purportedly of al-Zarqawi disseminated Wednesday, the speaker declares he has launched a war on Iraq’s Shiite community.

With a national referendum to decide whether to adopt a constitution to govern Iraq set for Oct. 15, Lynch said insurgents are certain to ramp up the violence in coming weeks.

“It happened again today and it can happen again tomorrow,” Lynch said Thursday in Baghdad. “We are convinced that we are going to fight our way to the elections.”


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