'Not one body in one piece'
A car bomb exploded on Tuesday morning at a police station south of Baghdad as dozens of would-be recruits lined up to apply for jobs, and a hospital official said at least 50 people were killed and another 50 injured.
United States troops sealed off the area around the station and refused to allow journalists near the blast site about 50km south of Baghdad.
However, hospital director Razaq Jabbar said his facility had received 50 dead and 50 injured. He said he had heard that three others died at another hospital.
“This figure might increase,” he said.
“There were some body parts that haven’t been identified yet.
Some more bodies may be trapped under the rubble.”
In Baghdad, Lieutenant Colonel Dan Williams, a coalition spokesperson, said no US or other coalition forces were killed or injured.
Policeman Wissam Abdul-Karim said he was standing in front of the nearby courthouse when “I heard a very strong explosion” and “the blast threw me on the ground”.
“It was the day for applying for new recruits,” Abdul-Karim said. “There were tens of them waiting outside the police station.”
He did not know whether the blast was caused by a suicide driver or from a stationary vehicle. Abdul-Karim said security for the facility included a checkpoint surrounded by sandbags and barbed wire.
Hussein Mohammed (18) said he was standing in the public market when he heard a tremendous explosion at about 9.15am local time. Another witness, who refused to give his name, described the blast as “really strong” and said body parts littered the street near the station.
“There was not one body in one piece,” he said.
Jabbar said some of the victims were policemen “but many more were civilians applying for jobs and passers-by”.
Malik Moussa, a 63-year-old lawyer, said he was walking to the police station when the blast occurred.
“I saw two cars totally burned out,” Moussa said. “Blood was gushing out of my right arm.”
Insurgents have mounted a string of car and suicide bombings in recent weeks. The deadliest so far has been in the northern city of Irbil on February 1 when two suicide bombers blew themselves up at two Kurdish party offices celebrating a Muslim holiday, killing at least 109 people.
A suicide car bomb exploded near the main gate to the US-led coalition’s headquarters in Baghdad, killing at least 31 people.
The worst previous car bombing before the Irbil attack occurred on August 29 outside a mosque in the Shiite Muslim holy city of Najaf, killing more than 85 people, including Shiite leader Ayatollah Mohammed Baqir al-Hakim.
Meanwhile, the Baghdad Convention Centre, which houses the US military press centre and other coalition facilities, was evacuated Tuesday after bomb-sniffing dogs detected something suspicious, said Williams, the coalition spokesperson. The centre was later reopened.
On Monday, a suicide bomber walked up to the house of brothers Majid and Amer Ali Suleiman in Ramadi, west of Baghdad, and detonated explosives strapped to his body, witnesses said.
Three guards were seriously injured but the brothers—who are among the city’s most prominent tribal leaders working with coalition forces—escaped unhurt.
The bomber had approached the house earlier when the brothers were receiving callers, and was told to leave, the witnesses said.
Insurgents have repeatedly warned Iraqis not to cooperate with the Americans. The most recent threats were contained in pamphlets circulated in Ramadi and nearby Fallujah by a purported coalition of 12 insurgent groups.
Ramadi and Fallujah are located in the Sunni Triangle, a major centre of resistance to the US-led occupation.
This is the second instance of a suicide bomber carrying out an attack with explosives on his body although several suicide car and truck bombings are not unknown.
Also on Monday, defence officials in Washington said American forces in Iraq have detained one of the remaining most-wanted members of Saddam Hussein’s government.
Muhsin Khadr al-Khafaji, number 48 on the most-wanted list of 55, was turned over last weekend to US troops in the Baghdad area, the officials said, speaking on the condition of anonymity. The officials did not say who turned him over.—Sapa-AP