At least 60 die across Iraq

Victims include many police, Iraqi soldiers


BAGHDAD, Iraq -- Gunfire, explosions and kidnappings picked up a withering pace across Iraq yesterday, killing at least 60 people, including many police officers and Iraqi soldiers. Government forces and U.S. troops raced through flames and smoke from one set of casualties to the next.

The violence that shook Baghdad and towns to the north appeared to intensify anger against U.S. soldiers and Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki for not stemming months of unrelenting bloodshed that has led to thousands deaths and widening sectarian tensions. Most of the attacks targeted Iraqi security forces and suggested a calculated effort to undermine al-Maliki's security plans.

The deadliest blast came near the industrial city of Beiji, where a roadside bomb exploded near a bus leaving an American base, killing 23 Iraqi soldiers and wounding 20 others, said Brig. Gen. Qassim Musawi, a spokesman for the Iraqi Ministry of Defense. The bus was heading to a training mission in Baghdad, and most of the soldiers were from Mosul, according to Musawi.

In Baghdad's Karada neighborhood, three policemen, three Iraqi soldiers and eight civilians were killed when a car bomb targeted a bank where security forces had come to pick up their monthly pay. Blood mixed with gasoline, pooling in the street, where a son found the twisted motorcycle of his father and later confirmed that the man was dead. The new rubble sat in piles next to debris from similar explosions nearly a week ago that killed 32 people.

"I carried a burned body to put it in the ambulance but I saw three legs and then I discovered that the burned body of the attacker was mixed with another body of a victim," said Abu Muntathar Husseini, an eyewitness who lives in the area.

"The terrorists are manufacturing their car bombs inside the security ring. The government should take better measures," Muntathar Husseini added. "Only Iraqis are being killed. No Americans are hurt by these terrorist acts. Our government is not being courageous in dealing with this situation. We need to face the terrorists."

North of Baghdad in Muqdadiyah, another car bomb aimed at Iraqi security forces killed two policemen and five civilians near a hospital.

Sectarian fighting, ambushes on security forces, kidnappings, assassinations and other violence are paralyzing many cities and towns. The U.S. is planning to increase its troop strength in Baghdad from 9,000 to 13,000 soldiers to help flush death squads and militants from the city - a move it says will restore order to the rest of the nation.

The Iraqi government has failed to defeat the insurgency and ease sectarian bloodshed between Sunnis and Shiites that has led to an undeclared civil war. Al-Maliki's efforts have been complicated further by internal security forces, made up mainly of Shiites, that have been accused of joining death squads. Interior Minister Jawad Bolani vowed this week to clean his department of "unfaithful and corrupt elements."

The U.S. military announced two deaths: a soldier killed in fighting yesterday in the Sunni insurgent stronghold of Anbar province and another by a bomb Monday while in a convoy south of Baghdad.

Jeffrey Fleishman and Saif Rasheed write for the Los Angeles Times.

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