With car bombs, assassinations, ambushes and raids on police stations, insurgents killed at least 54 people, including Iraqi policemen and a deputy governor, across the volatile...

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BAGHDAD, Iraq — With car bombs, assassinations, ambushes and raids on police stations, insurgents killed at least 54 people, including Iraqi policemen and a deputy governor, across the volatile Sunni Triangle yesterday, and a militant group claimed it executed eight Iraqi employees of an American security company.

The attacks — including one in which 12 policemen were executed in their station near Tikrit — were the latest by the insurgency targeting Iraqis working with the American military or the U.S.-backed government ahead of the Jan. 30 national elections.

Late yesterday, insurgents lured police to a house in west Baghdad with an anonymous tip about a rebel hide-out, then set off explosives, killing at least 29 people and wounding 18, police said. Seven policemen were among the dead.

The explosion occurred inside the house as police were about to enter, an official in Ghazaliya police station said today. Six houses collapsed in the blast and several people are believed to be still trapped underneath the rubble.

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The police official said the attack was “evidently an ambush” and that “massive amounts of explosives” were used.

Brig. Gen. Jeffery Hammond, assistant brigade commander in the 1st Cavalry Division that controls Baghdad, said attacks by insurgents are expected to escalate in the run-up to the balloting.

“We anticipate that the enemy will [continue with] attacks, intimidation, assassinations and other messages designed to destroy life in Baghdad,” Hammond said, adding that Iraqi security forces will bear the brunt of providing security for the elections and that U.S. troops will back them up only if needed.

Iraqi leaders said the insurgents — who are mostly Sunni Muslims and have been blamed for attacks against Iraq’s Shiites — are bent on triggering ethnic strife before next month’s poll.

“The terrorists intend to destroy Iraq’s national unity,” a statement issued by the Interim National Assembly said.

Shiite Muslims, who make up around 60 percent of Iraq’s people, have been strong supporters of the elections, which they expect to reverse the longtime domination of Iraq’s Sunni minority. The insurgency is believed to draw most of its support from Sunnis, who provided much of Saddam Hussein’s former Baath party membership.

Earlier yesterday, gunmen attacked a police station near Saddam’s hometown of Tikrit, overwhelmed 12 Iraqi policemen there, killed them and then blew up the building, said Lt. Col. Saad Hmoud, a local police official.

The deputy governor of the restive Anbar province, Moayyad Hardan al-Issawi, was assassinated near Ramadi, east of Baghdad, police official Abdel Qader al-Kubeisy said.

Gunmen who shot him left a statement next to his body: “This is the fate of everyone who deals with the American troops.” The statement was signed by the group Mujahedeen al-Anbar, or “holy warriors of Anbar.”

Such flagrant attacks appear designed to cause panic among Iraqi officials and security forces and to provoke a sectarian conflict between Shiites and Sunnis.

Militants released a videotape yesterday, saying they have executed eight and released two Iraqis who were employed by Sandi Group, a U.S. security company, and had been held hostage since Dec. 13. The claim could not be independently verified.

The insurgents claiming to represent three Iraqi militant groups — the Mujahedeen Army, the Black Banner Brigade and the Mutassim Bellah Brigade — said in the tape obtained by APTN that “the eight have been executed because it was proven that they were supporting the occupational army.” The other two will be released for a lack of evidence, a statement read by one of the militants.

In other strikes yesterday, a car bomb killed five Iraqi National Guardsmen and injured 26 near Baqouba, a town 35 miles northeast of Baghdad, after the paramilitary troops cordoned off an area in order to disarm a roadside bomb, said U.S. Maj. Neal O’Brien.

In Baqouba itself, unidentified gunmen assassinated Capt. Na’em Muhanad Abdullah, a local police commander, and wounded three other men, a spokesman said.

Elsewhere yesterday, a car bomb exploded in the village of Muradiya, about 20 miles northeast of Baghdad, killing five civilians and wounding dozens, said Ahmed Fouad, a doctor in the Baqouba General Hospital.

In Mosul, 225 miles northwest of Baghdad, a gunman attacked a police station in the northeastern Hadbaa district, killing one policeman, said police Capt. Ahmed Khalil.

In the central city of Samarra a suicide attacker detonated his car in the city center wounding 10 people, including three children, police Maj. Saadoun Ahmed Matroud.

In Babil province south of Baghdad, police said they arrested 10 armed men in a raid in the area of Jbila after intelligence indicated the suspects were allegedly plotting to attack a police station there, Capt. Hady Hatif said.

At Samarra, U.S. troops killed three rebels when they attacked a U.S. post, the U.S. military said.