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Suicide bombings leave 46 dead, dozens injured in Iraq

THE WORLD

March 25, 2007|Christian Berthelsen | Times Staff Writer

BAGHDAD — Suicide bombers struck in force across Iraq on Saturday, killing at least 46 people and wounding scores in an explosion of street violence after days of relative calm.

In the deadliest attack, a man driving a truck with explosives hidden under bricks detonated his bomb at a police station under construction in the south Baghdad neighborhood of Dora, a Sunni insurgent stronghold.

Police said at least 20 people were killed and 26 injured.

The explosion sent shockwaves through the city, alarming people as far away as the heavily fortified Green Zone several miles to the north.

Witnesses said the driver set off his explosives at a security gate outside the police compound. Still, they said, the building was demolished.

There were reports that medical aid and rescue workers responding to the blast were fired on by insurgents around the station.

Other reports indicated the facility was sometimes used by joint Iraqi and U.S. forces, but no Americans were said to be present at the time of the attack. U.S. military spokesman Lt. Col. Christopher Garver said the outpost was not one of the new "joint security stations" that are a fixture of the new security plan.

"There was a lorry which used to come every day together with the vehicles used in the maintenance work," said Ali Kareem Hasan, a laborer on the construction project. "The Iraqi police guards asked him to stop to be checked as they do every day, but he didn't.... After some seconds the lorry exploded."

Hasan, who was working in another part of the building, was taken to Yarmouk Hospital to be treated for shrapnel wounds.

Police officer Jabbar Abdul Hassan Hamad said he was sleeping in a guard room after his shift when the bomb struck.

"I heard a very huge explosion and then I was unconscious," he said. "I was evacuated from underneath the debris of the room." He also was being treated at Yarmouk.

A group calling itself the Islamic State of Iraq, which is made up of Al Qaeda in Iraq and other insurgent fighters, claimed responsibility on its website for the Dora police station bombing. The claim could not be confirmed.

Police said the casualty count continued to increase throughout the day as rescuers dug through the rubble.

Among those confirmed dead were 14 police officers and three prisoners, who were killed when the building collapsed. Hasan, the laborer, said as many as 40 detainees may have been inside.

Police and civilian witnesses said U.S. artillery units in south Baghdad began shelling date palm orchards in the area in the afternoon. Insurgents frequently use the orchards as hiding places and staging grounds for attacks on security forces and, recently, on Shiite pilgrims traveling to Karbala for religious ceremonies.

South of the capital, near Hillah, a second truck bomb exploded near a Shiite mosque that houses a political office of radical cleric Muqtada Sadr, killing 10 people and injuring more than 30. The blast severely damaged the building.

Another suicide bomber detonated his explosives in a candy store in the northwestern city of Tall Afar, killing 10. Three more struck checkpoints and a police station in the northwest, along the border with Syria, killing six.

The U.S. military announced that a soldier was killed by a roadside bomb Friday while on a foot patrol in south Baghdad. The death brought the U.S. military toll to 3,236 since the invasion began in 2003, according to icasualties.org.

In other violence in Baghdad, four people were killed by mortar shelling in a poor Shiite neighborhood in the eastern part of the city, and two civilians were killed in crossfire between insurgents and the Iraqi army in the city's center. Police reported finding the bodies of 10 men in Baghdad who had been shot to death.

Iraqi troops in the western city of Fallouja found the bodies of 10 men killed execution-style.

christian.berthelsen@latimes.com

Times staff writers Raheem Salman, Zeena Kareem, Said Rifai, Suhail Ahmad and Mohammed Rasheed and special correspondents in Baghdad, Fallouja, Mosul and Diwaniya, Iraq, contributed to this report.

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