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Suicide car bomb kills 47 at Iraqi army center
By (Agencies)
Updated: 2004-02-12 08:49

A suicide car bomb killed 47 people at an army recruitment center in Baghdad Wednesday, taking the death toll to about 100 in two attacks on Iraqis working with the U.S. occupation forces within 24 hours.

"It was aimed strictly at Iraqis," U.S. Colonel Ralph Baker told Reuters at the scene. About 300-500 pounds of plastic explosives mixed with artillery shells had maximized the "kill effect," he added.

Medical staff said hospitals had taken in 44 dead and 55 wounded, of whom at least three later died of their wounds.

Some 53 people were killed Tuesday in a similar attack on Iraqis lining up for jobs at a police station.

The police and new army are central to Washington's plan to hand over power to Iraqis by June 30. Most of Wednesday's victims were newly recruited soldiers reporting for duty.

"We were standing in line waiting to start our shift in the new army and we saw a white car drive by us and then blow up. Many died. There were about 400 people in line," said Ghassan Samir, one of the wounded.


Distraught relatives tried to identify loved ones at the scene, peeling back bloody sheets and bodybags, covering mouths and noses as they examined each corpse.

As bodies were piled into crude wooden coffins, angry people accused the Americans of carrying out the attack.

"It was the Americans! The Americans! They never came to oust Saddam, they came for the oil," one man said.

Iraqi security forces have frequently complained that U.S. troops do not provide enough protection.

"The terrorists are trying to deter the people from joining the new forces. They will succeed it we don't provide enough security for them. It is the responsibility of the occupation forces under international law to provide security." said Governing Council member Adnan Pachachi.

Brigadier General Mark Kimmitt, top U.S. military spokesman in Iraq, suggested adequate security measures were in place at the army recruitment facility Wednesday.

"There were very few casualties taken by people behind the protective barriers...it validates the procedures that we put in place to try and harden up some of these sites," he told a news conference.

The attacks follow a pattern of targeting Iraqis seen as collaborating with the U.S. occupation. Twin suicide bombings in northern Iraq against two Kurdish parties allied with the United States killed more than 100 people on Feb. 1.

Tuesday's suicide car bomb exploded among civilians lining up outside a police station in the town of Iskandariya, 25 miles south of the capital, to apply for jobs.

Some 620 police have been killed since Saddam Hussein was toppled on April 9, according to police officials.

"If the Iraqis don't join the police and army, that means we are saying to the Americans: 'Stay here forever'," said Haitham Imad, a 29-year-old army recruit.


Shortly after the blast, a United Nations team visiting Iraq canceled a meeting with political parties in the capital, reporters on the scene said. No reason was given.

The team, led by Lakhdar Brahimi, is discussing the possibility of holding elections ahead of the June 30 handover deadline, as demanded by leaders of the Shi'ite Muslim majority. U.S. plans are for elections only later.

The U.S. Army said Wednesday it had doubled the bounty to $10 million for Abu Musab Zarqawi, whom U.S. officials say is an Islamic militant with links to Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda network and plotting to ignite civil war in Iraq.

A letter purportedly written by Zarqawi urged suicide bombings against Iraq's Shi'ites in a bid to spark war, according to a copy released by U.S. forces Wednesday.

Brahimi was due to leave by Friday at the latest, a senior U.S.-led administration official said. The rest of the U.N. team has started touring provinces. U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan is expected to make a decision on the elections on February 21.

Two bomb attacks against the U.N. presence in Baghdad last year killed dozens and forced the U.N. to pull out of Iraq.

Guerrillas have kept up attacks on foreign forces.

In the southern city of Diwaniyah, five Spanish soldiers on patrol were wounded Wednesday when an explosive device was thrown at them, Spain's Defense Ministry said.

The U.S. military said three American soldiers were wounded by a roadside bomb near the northern city of Kirkuk.

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