Back-to-back car bombings kill 14 Iraqis

Sunday, November 23, 2003

BAGHDAD, Iraq -- Suicide car bombers struck two police stations north of the capital Saturday within half an hour, killing at least 12 Iraqi police and civilians and two attackers. Insurgents also hit a civilian cargo plane with a surface-to-air missile as it took off from Baghdad, a military official said.

U.S. officials warned of even more attacks as the Islamic holy month of Ramadan nears its end, expected on Tuesday.

The car bombing victims were all Iraqi police or civilians. A U.S.-based human rights organization accused insurgents of committing war crimes by targeting civilians perceived as cooperating with the occupation.

The cargo plane, operated by the Belgium-based cargo service DHL, was the first civilian airliner to be hit by insurgents.

The Airbus 300 turned around and made an emergency landing after its left wing burst into flames, and all three crewmembers -- two Belgians and a Briton -- emerged safely.

The U.S. occupation authority said it was investigating the cause, but a military official said on condition of anonymity that a SAM-7 surface-to-air missile struck the plane.

Elsewhere, an Iraqi police colonel in charge of protecting oil installations was assassinated Saturday in northern Iraq, part of what appeared to be an insurgent campaign against U.S.-backed security forces.

The damage to the plane appeared consistent with the effects of a missile hit. A photograph taken from the ground showed flames at the spot where the ailerons and flaps meet on the left wing's trailing edge.

Insurgents have downed five U.S. military helicopters in recent weeks using shoulder-fired missiles and rocket-propelled grenades, killing about 40 U.S. servicemen.

Northeast of Baghdad, suicide bombers struck two police stations within 30 minutes. In the market town of Khan Bani Saad, a Chevrolet Caprice sped through a guard's gunfire Saturday morning and exploded at the station gate, police said.

Capt. Ryan McCormick of the 4th Infantry Division said 10 people were killed: six policemen, three civilians and the driver. Iraqi police said one of the dead was a 5-year-old girl. Another 10 people were wounded, McCormick said.

Iraqi police Sgt. Aqil Suheil, who was wounded in the legs in the attack, said he was washing his car when he saw the car speed into the station.

"I heard a loud explosion. I found myself under the car," he said. "I got out quickly and ran toward the street and then lost consciousness."

In Baqouba, 12 miles to the northeast, a white SUV approached the gate to a police station at normal speed but ignored orders to stop and then blew up at the checkpoint, witnesses said.

Three policemen and the driver were killed, and one policeman was missing, Lt. Wisam Ahmed said. At least 10 civilians were hurt. A coalition official said on condition of anonymity that five policemen were killed and 15 were wounded in the attack.

In Mosul, police Col. Abdul-Salam Qanbar, who was in charge of a police force protecting oil installations, was fatally shot Saturday evening while heading to a mosque, a police official said on condition of anonymity.

The bombings came amid U.S. intelligence reports that anti-American Muslims would carry out more attacks -- to perform what they see as "good works" in the final days of Ramadan, said Lt. Col. Steve Russell, a battalion commander in the 4th Infantry Division.

The intelligence suggested more violence, especially in the province that includes Baqouba and Khan Bani Saad, he said.

Since Wednesday, insurgents have carried out six vehicle bombings, mostly targeting Iraqis supporting the coalition.

"It is clear that the terrorists have targeted Iraqis, the very Iraqis who are trying to improve the security in Iraq and the lives of ordinary Iraqis," coalition spokesman Charles Heatly said.

Since Wednesday, a bomb exploded at the home of a pro-U.S. sheik in Ramadi, a blast occurred at the offices of a U.S.-allied Kurdish political party in Kirkuk and a truck blew up near the office of a British de-mining company in Irbil.

On Saturday, a remotely detonated bomb hidden in a juice cart exploded near an American convoy in the northern city of Mosul, police and witnesses said.

No Americans were injured, but two Iraqis were hurt when, according to police, U.S. soldiers stunned by the explosion opened fire in all directions. The U.S. military said it was investigating.

"I was in my car," said taxi driver Hisham Abdullah, 22, who was hospitalized with a gunshot wound. "The Americans were behind me. They were firing randomly and I was hit in the head."

Human Rights Watch criticized the insurgents for attacking Iraqi civilians "perceived to be cooperating" with the U.S.-led occupation.

"All Iraqi civilians are protected by the Geneva Conventions," Joe Stork, an official with the human rights watchdog, said in New York. "It doesn't matter whether they sympathize with the U.S. occupation or the insurgents."

Associated Press reporters Bassem Mroue in Khan Bani Saad, Sameer N. Yacoub in Baqouba and Slobodan Lekic in Baghdad contributed to this report.

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