String of attacks targeting police and government kills 43 in Iraq

By Sameer N. Yacoub, AP
Wednesday, August 25, 2010

43 dead in string of attacks in Iraq

BAGHDAD — A string of more than a dozen attacks targeted Iraq’s local government and police forces from one end of the country to the other on Wednesday, killing 43 people in a death toll that continued to rise, police and hospital officials said.

There were no claims of responsibility, but the scale and reach of the violence, which comes a day after the number of U.S. troops fell below 50,000, underscored insurgent efforts to show their might as the American military presence in Iraq shrinks.

The insurgents targeted the government institutions that are key to the day to day running and stability of the country.

The deadliest attack came in north Baghdad, where a suicide bomber detonated a car bomb in a parking lot behind a police station. Fifteen people were killed, including six policemen. Police and hospital officials said another 58 were wounded in the explosion that left a crater three yards (meters) wide and trapped people beneath the rubble of felled houses nearby.

“We woke up to the sound of this powerful explosion that shook the area,” said resident Abu Ahmed, 35. “I searched for victims in the destroyed houses and evacuated seven dead children and some women.”

Four others, including an Iraqi soldier and a police officer, were killed in small bursts of violence in Baghdad.

A senior Iraqi intelligence official raised the possibility that some of the attackers had inside help. The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to the media, said the Baghdad suicide bombing carried the hallmarks of al-Qaida, but said unnamed political factions helped coordinate some of the other attacks. He refused to elaborate.

Since Iraq’s March 7 elections failed to produce a clear winner, U.S. officials have feared that competing political factions could spur widespread violence. Iraqi leaders so far have tried to end the political impasse peacefully.

But U.S. and Iraqi officials alike acknowledge growing frustration throughout the nation, nearly six months after the vote, and say that politically motivated violence could undo security gains made over the past few years.

“What is going on in the country?” said Abu Mohammed an eyewitness to a car bombing near Baghdad’s Adan Square that killed two passers-by. “Where is the protection, where are the security troops?”

Still, some security forces proved to be on guard. Police in the northern city of Mosul said Iraqi soldiers shot and killed a suicide bomber Wednesday afternoon as he sought to blow up his car outside an army base.

From the northern Iraqi city of Kirkuk to the holy Muslim shrine town of Karbala, scattered bombings killed and wounded scores more. They included:

—Sixteen people, all policemen but one, were killed and an estimated 90 injured when a suicide bomber blew up his car next to the Kut council headquarters southeast of Baghdad, police and hospital officials said.

—Another local council building in Muqdadiyah, north of the capital, was hit with a car bomb. Three people were killed and 18 hurt, said Diyala police spokesman Maj. Ghalib al-Karkhi.

—In the former insurgent stronghold of Fallujah, police said a soldier was killed and 10 people injured when a suicide bomber rammed his explosives-packed car into an Iraqi army convoy.

—Car bombs in Kirkuk, Iskandariyah and Dujail killed three and wounded 11. A roadside bomb in Tikrit, Saddam Hussein’s hometown, killed a policeman on patrol and wounded another.

—A car bomb near the Karbala police station wounded 28 people but no fatalities were immediately reported. Two people in the southern port city of Basra were also injured by a car packed with explosives.

While violence has subsided significantly since the height of the sectarian bloodshed in 2006 and 2007, militants continue to target members of Iraq’s nascent security forces, undermining their ability to defend the country as the U.S. ends combat operations.

Associated Press Writers Barbara Surk, Qassim Abdul-Zahra and Lara Jakes contributed to this report.

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