Suicide bomber kills 30 near Tikrit
BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) — A suicide truck bomber slammed into a crowd of police lining up for duty Sunday near Tikrit, collapsing the station and killing at least 30 people and wounding 50, police said.
Minutes later, a roadside bomb struck a car on a highway on the western outskirts of Tikrit, 80 miles north of Baghdad, killing two civilians and wounding two others, police said.
Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki said Iraqi security forces would deploy in force this week as part of a U.S.-backed security sweep aimed at stopping the violence in the capital.
The Shiite prime minister stressed that the operation would be comprehensive.
“The new security plan will not start from a specific area, but it will start from all areas and at the same time and those who will take part in it are from all formations of the army and police,” he said, facing criticism that delays in starting the operation have allowed attacks that have killed hundreds over the past few weeks.
“The operation will continue to escalate and very soon, during this week, we will witness a big start and the intensive deployment of army, police and other security forces in different areas in Baghdad.”
The first blast near Tikrit occurred about 8 a.m. as police were arriving for work at the Adwar police station, provincial police Capt. Abdel-Samad Mohammed said, giving the casualty toll. He said 21 of the 30 killed were policemen.
The bomber drove a small truck that was packed with explosives covered by hay and the force of the blast flattened the building and heavily damaged three houses close to the station, along with municipal offices and the post office.
Local residents who rushed to the scene tried to help with rescue efforts before civil defense squads arrived with shovels to remove the debris and pull out the dead and those injured. U.S. and Iraqi forces later surrounded the area.
Bashir Masour, a 46-year-old laborer, said the explosion blew out the windows of his house, about 500 yards away.
“I ran to help and I saw destruction everywhere, along with charred bodies and body parts. Blood was spilled across a big area,” he said. “I carried six people who I thought were still alive but then realized they had died after being torn apart by shrapnel.”
Adwar, about 12 miles southeast of Tikrit, is where former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein was captured on Dec. 13, 2003.
Insurgents frequently target Iraqi security forces, accusing them of collaborating with the U.S.
A suicide bomber also blew himself up next to a police patrol in the religiously mixed neighborhood of Ilam in southwestern Baghdad, killing one policeman, police said.
Elsewhere in Baghdad, a parked car bomb exploded near an intersection, killing two people and wounding three in Mansour, an upscale western neighborhood that has been the scene of repeated bombings and kidnappings, police said.
The violence came a day after Gen. David Petraeus took charge of U.S. forces in Iraq, becoming the third commander in the war and declaring the American task now was to help Iraqis “gain the time they need to save their country.”
A U.S. soldier also was killed Sunday after coming under small-arms fire northeast of Baghdad, the military said, raising the number of American troops who have died this month to 37.
U.S. officials, meanwhile, prepared to detailed evidence supporting the Bush administration’s claims that Iran is providing lethal help to Iraqi fighters in a briefing in Baghdad.
The evidence on Iran is intended to give backbone to the administration’s claim that an emboldened Iran is playing a dangerous game across the Middle East: meddling in conflicts and seeding terrorism beyond its borders while rushing to acquire nuclear know-how that could produce a bomb.
Government officials familiar with the dossier’s documents and slides, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the materials still were classified, said they make a compelling case about Iranian actions in Iraq.
Among the evidence the administration planned to present are weapons that were seized over time in U.S.-led raids on caches around Iraq, said one military official. Other evidence includes documents captured when U.S.-led forces raided an Iranian office Jan. 11 in Irbil, a city in Kurdish-controlled northern Iraq about 220 miles north of Baghdad, the official said.
In that raid, the U.S. captured five Iranians. They included the operations chief and other members of Iran’s elite Quds Force, which is accused of arming and training Iraqi militants. Tehran said it was a government liaison office and called for the release of the five, along with compensation for damages.
The Iran dossier, some 200 pages thick in its classified form, was revised heavily after officials decided it was not ready for release as planned last month. No one who has seen the files has suggested the evidence is thin. But the Bush administration is haunted by the history of intelligence blunders about Saddam’s supposed weapons of mass destruction that led up to the 2003 Iraq invasion.
In other violence reported by police, gunmen killed eight new recruits for the police border forces on Saturday as they were returning to their homes near the border with Syria.