Police jobs sought despite bombing

Baghdad blast kills 14

injured vow to return

December 22, 2006|By Borzou Daragahi | Borzou Daragahi,LOS ANGELS TIMES

BAGHDAD, Iraq -- The three unemployed friends forged a pact. At the crack of dawn, they would go together to the recruiting station in Baghdad and sign up to be police officers.

The young men huddled nearby yesterday and waited for the center to open at 6:30 a.m. None of them noticed the man who approached wearing a belt packed with explosives.

Only one, 25-year-old Mustafa Numan, survived.

"We were all getting ready to get into line when the explosion occurred," he said from his bed at Kindi Hospital, where he was recovering from stomach and leg wounds. The blast killed 14 Iraqis and wounded 25.

"I lost consciousness and came to at the hospital," he said.

Despite the attack, Numan and others said they probably would return to the recruiting station. Yousef Haroun, a 24-year-old injured in the blast, said he will sign up for the police academy when he recovers.

"This is the only potential source of steady income for me, and my options are limited," he said.

Sunni insurgents also killed a police intelligence officer yesterday in western Baghdad and attempted to kill a police commander near Kirkuk. Bombings and shootings in the capital left at least three others dead.

Shiite militiamen with alleged ties to security forces have waged their own deadly campaign, killing dozens a day in secretive death squad operations. At least 36 unidentified bodies were found yesterday in and around Baghdad. Four bodies were discovered in southern Iraq.

Gunmen shot and killed a teacher in western Baghdad as she and her students at a girls high school left for home.

Three American soldiers were killed in combat in the past three days, the U.S. military said. A Marine was killed yesterday in Anbar province. A soldier was killed in a roadside bombing south of Baghdad on Wednesday, and another died Tuesday in Anbar.

December is shaping up as one of the deadliest for Americans in Iraq. But U.S. soldiers told visiting Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates that increasing the number of American troops in Baghdad would buy time to stabilize Iraq.

"I really think we need more troops here," said Spc. Jason Glenn during a meeting at Camp Victory in Baghdad. "With more presence on the ground, more troops might hold [the insurgents] off long enough to where we can get the Iraqi army trained up."

Gates, in Iraq on a second day of a fact-finding mission, was told that the current strategy of training Iraqi forces to take over from Americans is working.

"Sir, I think we need to just keep doing what we're doing," Glenn said.

Gates later met with senior Iraqi officials, assuring them of U.S. support.

"The Iraqi government is determined to improve the security of the people here in Iraq, and above all here in Baghdad," Gates told reporters after meeting with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and other officials.

Iraqi lawmakers seeking the approval of the nation's most powerful Shiite cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, to form a new political coalition that would sideline extremists were put off for a few days. Al-Sistani "supports any action that unites political efforts and unifies Iraq and Iraqis," said Falah Fyadh, a Shiite member of parliament, after speaking with the cleric.

Meanwhile the judge in the genocide trial of Saddam Hussein and six co-defendants silenced testimony suggesting that Turkey, a U.S. ally, cooperated with the Baghdad regime during a late-1980s operation in which chemical weapons were used to crush rebellious Kurds.

"There has to be very delicate cooperation with the Turkish side to ensure that these ... " said an Aug 21, 1988, document being read in the courtroom before the judge cut off the sound.

Another audio snippet referred to a "secret Iraqi-Turkish protocol" that allowed Turkish troops to enter Iraq in pursuit of Kurdish guerrillas fighting the Ankara government.

Borzou Daragahi writes for the Los Angeles Times.

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