Arab League chief Amr Mousa yesterday warned that the "gates of hell" had been opened in Iraq, as ministers gathered for a meeting set to be dominated by the war-ravaged country.

The session opened as scores of people were killed in attacks by suspected insurgents in and around Baghdad.

"The gates of hell are open in Iraq," Mousa said in his opening speech, voicing hope that Arab foreign ministers could "help Iraq through this crisis, reestablish sovereignty throughout the country and end the American occupation."

His comments echoed a declaration by French President Jacques Chirac, one of the most vocal opponents to the US-led war in Iraq, who compared the situation there to a Pandora's box.

At least 73 people were killed yesterday in a Baghdad car bombing and in an ambush on police in Baquba, claimed by Al Qaida-linked militants, as fighting flared between US troops and insurgents in Ramadi.

Fifty people perished in Baghdad, 47 of them when a vehicle packed with explosives blew up outside the main police headquarters. More than 100 people were wounded in the bombing, the most lethal in the country for two months.

Interior Minister Falah Al Naqib blamed the bombing on "Arab groups".

Further north in the hot- spot of Baquba, 13 people died in an ambush, all but one of them policemen.

Meanwhile, kidnappers released a Turkish translator after Turkey protested over a US offensive in northern Iraq, but two more Turkish truck drivers were kidnapped near Tikrit, Turkish media reported.

And a militant group paraded a captive Jordanian truck driver in a videotape aired by Al Jazeera television and threatened to kill him unless his employer pulled out of the country within 48 hours.