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23 killed in Baghdad bomb attacks

Successive bomb attacks targeting police officers in Iraq raises more questions about vulnerability of the country’s security forces.

An Iraqi policeman stands by the crate caused by a car bomb attack on a police station in Baghdad today.
An Iraqi policeman stands by the crate caused by a car bomb attack on a police station in Baghdad today.
Image: AP Photo/Karim Kadim/PA

BOMB ATTACKS targeting Iraqi police in Baghdad this morning killed at least 23 people and wounded more than 20, Iraqi officials said.

The blasts were aimed at the police, generally considered to be the weakest section of the country’s security forces, and emphasised that despite Iraq’s security gains, long-term stability in the country is still elusive.

US forces are scheduled to leave Iraq by the end of this year, and today’s multi-pronged attack is likely to add to concerns about whether the Iraqi security forces are able to effectively secure the city.

In the northern Shiite neighbourhood of Hurriyah, nine people died when a suicide bomber also targeted a police station.

In the southern Karradah area, three people were killed and six wounded by another suicide car bomb attack on a police station, the officials said. Smoke could be seen rising from the blast site as ambulances rushed to the scene, their sirens wailing. Iraqi army helicopters circled over head.

Officials said the suicide bombers both exploded their vehicles at the outer entrance leading into the police stations.

“The scene was horrific,” said Salim Ghadban, who was having breakfast near the Karradah police station when he heard a loud explosion.

“We saw terrified people, some injured, running in our direction, and we rushed to the attacked police station to see burned bodies and charred cars. We helped cover the burnt bodies until the ambulances arrived.”

The attack in Hurriyah was especially remarkable because the neighbourhood is a stronghold of Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr. It is almost entirely surrounded by blast walls, and access is tightly restricted through just a four entrances manned by the Iraqi army.

Two police officials say 13 people were killed in western Baghdad when a suicide bomber rammed a police station.

A parked car bomb exploded in western Baghdad targeting a police patrol but killed one civilian and injured five people. Three people were also injured by a roadside bomb hitting a police patrol in western Baghdad.

A hospital official confirmed the causalities. The officials all spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorised to speak to the media.

Responsibility

There was no immediate claim of responsibility but such attacks are usually the work of Sunni militant groups such as al-Qaida in Iraq. They often target security forces in their attempt to destabilise the country and sow havoc.

The military spokesman for Baghdad, Qassim al-Moussawi blamed al-Qaida for the attacks and said they were an attempt to show people that the militants are still active.

“Every three months or so, al-Qaida mobilises all its resources to launch such attacks in one day to say that al-Qaida is still able to attack and threaten security posts,” he said.

The police are an especially vulnerable target among Iraq’s security forces because they usually do not have the heavy weapons or equipment that the Iraqi army has. The military has received the bulk of the US training assistance since the war began.

Under a 2008 security pact, all US forces are to leave the country by the end of this year, although a massive American diplomatic force will remain.

US and Iraqi officials have been discussing whether to have a long-term but small US military presence in the country after December in order to train Iraqi security forces. But they have been unable to agree on whether to give the troops the legal protections that the American government requires, and time is rapidly running out for any agreement to take place.

“We urge the security forces to be on high alert ahead of the US withdrawal. Security stability in Iraq seems to be far away because we are still facing challenges,” said al-Moussawi.

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Associated Press

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