Attack on Iraq police station kills 22

U.S. soldier, Marine die in separate incidents over the weekend

July 25, 2005|By Alissa J. Rubin | Alissa J. Rubin,LOS ANGELES TIMES

BAGHDAD, Iraq - A suicide bomber aiming to blow up an Iraqi police station killed at least 22 people yesterday when his explosives-laden truck detonated as he maneuvered across a highway median in eastern Baghdad. Separate attacks killed a U.S. soldier and a Marine, the military said.

Some of the victims were incinerated in their cars by the blast, which U.S. military officials estimated had the force of nearly 500 pounds of TNT. The explosion destroyed 18 vehicles, a line of shops and a house. U.S. troops and Iraqi police rushed to the scene of the bombing, a poor neighborhood that is home mainly to Shiite Muslims.

Police and hospital officials said 22 people - most of them civilians - were killed and about 30 were injured, the Associated Press reported. The U.S. military, referring to initial Iraqi police reports, said 40 people were killed, but police said they were not certain where that figure came from, according to the AP.

North of Baghdad, one U.S. soldier was killed and two were wounded during an indirect fire attack on a base near Balad, the military said. The United States also announced that a Marine was killed Saturday in an improvised bomb attack during combat operations near Rutbah in western Iraq.

The bombing, the fourth major blast in two weeks, came as the National Assembly continued to struggle with the fallout of last week's assassination of a Sunni Arab member of the constitution-drafting committee.

Sunni Arabs have suspended their participation in the drafting until new security measures are in place, and some influential lawmakers say the document may not be done by the Aug. 15 deadline.

"They may not be able to meet the deadline and get the final draft ... and we'll just have to wait until they finish, and it will be a few more days and a few more days, two weeks or three weeks or even a month," said Hussain al-Shahristani, a deputy speaker of the assembly and a member of the United Iraqi Alliance, the Shiite-majority slate with the legislature's largest number of seats.

However, al-Shahristani said the assembly would refrain from formally delaying the process because the slippage is expected to be brief and there is pressure from many quarters to finish the drafting. Among those urging the assembly to finish on time is Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, Iraq's senior Shiite cleric and a key backer of the United Iraqi Alliance.

In addition to creating practical problems such as the Sunnis' temporary withdrawal from the constitution-writing, Iraq's violence has also created more intangible political difficulties.

The insurgents' campaign of bombings, shootings and abductions has left Iraqis distrustful of their government's ability to control the situation, and politicians feel increasingly constrained in their ability to make compromises, lest constituents perceive them as weak.

In light of the latest attacks, Iraqi Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari announced a security program yesterday designed to target the insurgency outside Baghdad more aggressively.

The plan envisions extending measures employed in an anti-insurgent crackdown in the capital to other cities. Despite deploying tens of thousands of police and national guard troops, making hundreds of arrests and establishing checkpoints, the effort appears to have had little effect on the insurgency.

On July 10, a suicide bomber wearing an explosives-laden belt detonated his payload among a group of Iraqi military recruits in Baghdad, killing at least 21 people. On July 13, an explosives-filled sport utility vehicle blew up in the capital, killing at least 27 Iraqis - many of them children - and a U.S. soldier. Three days later, a man with a bomb strapped to his waist blew himself up next to a loaded fuel tanker in the town of Musayyib, south of Baghdad, killing more than 90.

Yesterday's blast occurred about 75 yards from the Al Rashad police station, traumatizing a neighborhood.

In other violence yesterday, a man was killed when a mortar exploded near the Ministry of Interior, and at least two police officers were reported killed in other attacks.

The Los Angeles Times is a Tribune Publishing newspaper.

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