Nine killed, 60 wounded in suicide blast in Baghdad

Tuesday, July 20, 2004

BAGHDAD, Iraq -- A fuel tanker rigged as a massive bomb hurtled toward a Baghdad police station and exploded Monday, killing nine people, wounding 60, and leveling a huge section of an industrial neighborhood.

The suicide bombing was the fourth in a string of deadly attacks on police and government facilities in the last five days. Since the new government took power June 28, at least 75 people have been killed in militant attacks.

Monday's blast collapsed the roofs of auto repair shops, destroyed electrical workshops and crushed cars under concrete and bricks. It tore open a 32-foot-wide crater and damaged buildings hundreds of yards away.

In response to the kidnapping of a Filipino truck driver, the last of the Philippines' 51 peacekeepers left Iraq and drove into Kuwait. The withdrawal has been criticized by other coalition members, including the United States and Australia, as a dangerous capitulation to terrorists.

The fuel tanker attack on the police station in the Seidiyeh neighborhood of Baghdad took place just after 8 a.m., as police gathered to receive their daily assignments.

"We were all standing in a row, listening to our officer as he gave us our assignment for the day," said Mehdi Salah Abed Ali, 32, lying in a bed at al-Yarmuk hospital with his leg bandaged.

The police station was fenced in, and the tanker exploded about 500 feet away.

The tanker's presence in the industrial area did not raise concerns until it started speeding toward the police station, said Ahmed Nouri, who works at a nearby car wash.

"I was standing with a friend when we saw the tanker speeding in an unnatural way," Nouri said, describing the driver as a young man with a light beard.

After the attack, protesters gathered and chanted, "Long live Saddam!" before police dispersed them by firing in the air.

Militants have used near-constant car bombs, sabotage, assassinations and kidnappings as weapons in their 15-month-old insurgency. They increasingly have targeted police and local officials to try to destabilize the interim Iraqi government and punish those it considers collaborators with the U.S. forces who drove Saddam Hussein from power last year.

Monday's attack was the fourth since July 14. At least 31 people have been killed.

On Sunday, two car bombs in Tikrit killed two police officers and wounded five others.

On Thursday, attackers detonated a car bomb near police and government buildings in the western city of Haditha, killing 10 Iraqis and wounding about 40.

The day before, a suicide attacker detonated a car bomb outside the fortified enclave housing the headquarters of Iraq's interim government, killing at least 10 people.

Interim Prime Minister Iyad Allawi has promised to crack down on insurgents and restore security. In his first foreign trip since taking office June 28, Allawi thanked Jordan's King Abdullah II for helping train thousands of Iraqi troops.

Algarabawi's captors, who called themselves the Iraqi Legitimate Resistance, never threatened to harm him but made a series of demands on his Saudi company, including asking for $1 million ransom and insisting it stop doing business in Iraq.

The Al-Jarie Transport company refused to pay the ransom but agreed to end its business in Iraq, said Faisal al-Naheet, a subcontractor speaking on behalf of the firm.

The body of Lt. Col. Nafi al-Kubaisi, the police chief of the town of Heet, was discovered Monday at a market in nearby Fallujah, police said. Al-Kubaisi had been kidnapped Saturday from his police station, said police Capt. Nasir Abdullah.

Militants also fatally shot Essam al-Dijaili, head of the military's supply department, as he was bringing dinner home Sunday. His bodyguard also was killed, said Mishal al-Sarraf, an adviser to the defense minister.

Iraq also took its first step toward re-engaging the world less than a month after regaining sovereignty. Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari announced 43 new ambassadors, who will fan out across the globe, including to nearly all Arab nations.

"This is the first step in restoring Iraq's diplomatic representation," Zebari said. "Iraq is an important country and needs to have as much diplomatic relations as possible with the world."

Also Monday, a British military helicopter crashed in the southern city of Basra, killing one crew member and injuring two, the British Ministry of Defense said. It was unlikely the chopper was attacked, British Defense Secretary Geoff Hoon said.

In the northern city of Mosul, Leith Hussein Ali, a Turkmenistan broadcaster and head of a local Turkoman movement, was killed and two others were injured when their car was attacked Monday, police said.

Two Turkish men driving oil tankers also were attacked over the weekend in al Kesk, 15 miles west of Mosul. One driver, identified as Abdul Jalil, was killed, and the other, Mohammed Omar, was abducted, Iraqi police said Monday.

Associated Press writer Bushra Juhi contributed to this report.

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