Bombers attack police academy

Blasts kill at least 27 Iraqis in Baghdad


BAGHDAD, IRAQ -- Two suicide bombers struck at police trainees in the Iraqi capital yesterday, killing at least 27 people and wounding 50 others, including an American contractor.

The first blast, outside a classroom at a police academy, sent recruits fleeing into a bunker where the second suicide bomber detonated explosives strapped to his chest, the U.S. military said. One trainee injured by shrapnel said he and a group of fellow students were about to go to lunch when the attack happened.

While the U.S. military put the death toll at 27, Iraqi police said at least 36 people had been killed and 72 were injured, four of them women. The insurgent group al-Qaida in Iraq claimed responsibility for the attack, Associated Press reported.

No American soldiers were wounded in the two blasts, but the military announced that an American soldier was killed in Baghdad on Sunday when his vehicle struck a roadside bomb.

The military also offered new details about the deaths of 10 Marines near Fallujah last week.

The Pentagon initially said that the Marines were on foot, but gave no other details of their mission. Yesterday, officials released a statement saying that the blast occurred just after Marines from Company F, 2nd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment had finished conducting a promotion ceremony in an abandoned flour factory that was being used as a patrol base.

Military investigators now suspect that a Marine accidentally set off the explosion by stepping on the trigger of four buried artillery shells shortly after the ceremony concluded. The military said that the Marines had swept the structure for explosives before the ceremony.

In other developments yesterday, TV station Al-Jazeera broadcast a video, allegedly made by insurgents claiming to have abducted an American contractor. The video also showed a U.S. passport and an Arabic identity card bearing the name Ronald Schulz. On the station's Web site, a photograph showed a blond man and identified him as a security adviser to an Iraqi ministry.

Six other Westerners have been kidnapped in the last two weeks. A German archaeologist and four Christian aid workers - an American, a Briton and two Canadians - were kidnapped late last month. On Monday, a French engineer was abducted near his house in an upscale Baghdad neighborhood.

Amid the violence, Iraq is preparing for National Assembly elections next week that will decide who governs the country for the next four years.

Louise Roug writes for the Los Angeles Times.

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