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Two U.S. soldiers killed in bombing

A roadside bomb in Iraq destroyed a second heavily armored Bradley Fighting Vehicle in less than a week Monday, killing two U.S. soldiers, wounding four others and indicating that insurgents have increased the power of the explosives they are using against U.S. troops.

The blast came hours after gunmen in a passing car assassinated Baghdad's deputy police chief and his son, part of a campaign to target Iraq's security forces. Al-Qaida in Iraq, the group led by Jordanian terrorist Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, claimed responsibility.

In Washington, newly released U.N. audits of the oil-for-food program left unanswered questions about whether Saddam Hussein used the program to illegally raise billions of dollars, congressional leaders said.

The deadly attacks against the Bradleys come as senior military officials have warned that insurgents have been stringing together larger and larger explosive devices before the Jan. 30 elections. In many cases, U.S. officials say, the attacks consist of several large Russian-made artillery shells, roughly the size of shells used in American howitzer guns, strung together and fused to detonate at the same time.

The attack was one of several acts of major violence Monday.

A suicide attacker detonated a bomb in a fake police car at a police station courtyard in Baghdad, killing at least four officers and wounding 10 during a shift change, police and witnesses said.

A roadside bombing killed three Iraqi national guard soldiers and wounded six during a joint patrol with U.S. troops in the restive northern city of Mosul, said Maj. Andre Hance, a U.S. military spokesman. He said there were no American casualties.

Attackers shot and killed Baghdad's deputy police chief, Brig. Amer Ali Nayef, and his son, Lt. Khalid Amer, also a police officer. They were slain in Baghdad's Dora district while traveling in a car on their way to work, said Capt. Ahmed Ismail, an Interior Ministry spokesman.

Al-Qaida in Iraq claimed responsibility for the Baghdad assassinations in a statement posted on the Internet. The statement warned that other Iraqis cooperating with the U.S.-led military would meet the same fate.

The authenticity of the statement could not be verified, but the Web site has been used by militant groups in the past to claim responsibility for and show videos of attacks in Iraq.

In Washington, lawmakers have repeatedly demanded that the United Nations share more than 50 internal audits on the oil-for-food program, suspecting they would provide evidence that the former Iraqi president manipulated the humanitarian program with the help of corrupt or inept U.N. overseers.

But the audits released Sunday night didn't tackle the corruption issues at the heart of the matter. While finding repeated examples of overpayments to contractors and the mismanagement of purchases, the audits do not address the broader issues of oversight by U.N. headquarters and of the program's contracting and banking procedures.

NO PULLOUT DATE: The chief U.S. Embassy spokesman in Baghdad said Monday that the United States has rejected a request by Sunni Arab clerics to spell out a timetable for withdrawing troops from Iraq in exchange for calling off their boycott of the Jan. 30 elections.

U.S. officials met last week with leaders of the influential Association of Muslim Scholars in hopes of persuading Sunni Arabs to take part in the vote. The officials were told by the group's leaders that the boycott call would be abandoned only if the United States set a date for a pullout. But U.S. Embassy spokesman Bob Callahan said the United States would not meet the demand.

ABU GHRAIB TRIAL: The soldier accused of being the ringleader of the Abu Ghraib prison scandal went on trial at Fort Hood, Texas, on Monday with witnesses telling a military court they watched him punch an Iraqi inmate in the face and saw him laugh while forcing prisoners to pose naked. Spc. Charles Graner Jr. is the first soldier accused in the scandal to go on trial.

Graner, a 36-year-old former prison guard from Uniontown, Pa., is charged with conspiracy to maltreat Iraqi detainees, assault, dereliction of duty and committing indecent acts.

Information from the New York Times was used in this report.

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