Suicide bombers and roadside blasts targeted police across Baghdad on Wednesday, killing at least 28 people and wounding dozens on the second day of serial bombings in the Iraqi capital in less than a week.
The string of apparently coordinated assaults heightened worries about the ability of Iraq’s security forces to contain a stubborn insurgency, despite a drop in violence as the last US troops prepare to withdraw by the end of this year.
One bomber rammed an explosives-filled vehicle into a police station in central Alwiya district, killing 14 including 8 police and wounding 28, and another blew up his car at a police building in northwestern Hurriya, killing 8 people and wounding 27, police and hospitals said.
“A car approached and… the driver smashed through the checkpoint and exploded the car when he hit a concrete barrier,” Police Lt. Nadeer Adel told Reuters. “Smoke was everywhere, we all took cover. Minutes later we found a crater and some of our police were dead.”
The Hurriya blast burned out police vehicles and damaged the station’s blue protective blast walls next to the large crater in the road. In other districts blasts blew out windows from nearby homes and shops, scattering streets with debris.
A car bomb also targeted a police patrol in southern Ilaam district, killing at least three, while a roadside bomb hit an army patrol in Hurriya, killing one civilian and injuring 12 people, mostly soldiers, police said.
Two police officers were killed and seven people wounded when a roadside bomb hit another police patrol in the mainly Shi’ite Washash district in western Baghdad.
None of Iraq’s insurgent or militia groups claimed responsibility for the attacks, but suicide bombings are usually the hallmark of Iraq’s al-Qaeda affiliates who often target local authorities.
At least 10 people were killed on Monday in three successive blasts in Washash district. The first blast was followed by two more when emergency services arrived at the site to tend to the wounded.
The two days of Baghdad attacks came just after the government said it was postponing the army’s handover of security in the cities to the police because it was concerned over their readiness.
The number of bombings and attacks in Iraq has fallen sharply from its peak during the sectarian slaughter in 2006-2007, but Sunni Islamists tied to al-Qaeda and radical Shi’ite militias are still a threat in the OPEC producer.
Insurgents this year have increasingly targeted local security forces and local government offices outside the capital in what Iraqi officials say is an attempt to show that the government cannot provide security as US troops leave.
More than eight years after the invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein, the last 44,000 US troops are preparing to pull out of Iraq when a bilateral security pact expires, though Baghdad and Washington are in talks about whether some will stay on as trainers.
Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki said this week US troops might stay on as trainers but would not be given the legal immunity Washington demands and should find other ways to be involved in training. US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton insists on full protection for any US personnel.
12 October 2011, Wednesday / REUTERS, BAGHDAD