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28 Jul 2004 12:59
At least 68 people were killed and scores wounded on Wednesday when a suicide bomber blew up a car outside a police station in Baquba, northeast of Baghdad, police and the health minister said.
“A car bomb exploded in front of the rapid reaction unit’s building at about 9.30am,” said Mohammed Jassim, a local police officer.
“The hospital officials have told me that 68 were dead and 56 injured in the Baquba blast,” Alaa Abdessahab al-Alwan said.
A doctor at Baquba hospital put the number of injured as high as 70 and warned emergency workers were continuing to collect bodies from the scene of the explosion.
An AFP correspondent said he saw at least a dozen bodies lined up outside the hospital’s morgue, already crammed to breaking point with the dead.
Dozens of maimed bodies were strewn outside the police post amid pools of blood mixed into the mud.
The power of the bomber’s deadly charge fired flesh and shrapnel on to neighbouring rooftops, said an AFP correspondent at the scene.
Provincial police chief General Walid Khaled Abdel Salam confirmed that a suicide bomber triggered the massive explosion.
“Yes, there was a suicide bomber in the car,” he said. “A lot of people were killed and injured, but it’s difficult to determine how many at the moment.”
Jassim said the area had been jammed with people at the time of the blast.
“Young men were queuing outside to join the police and a bus passed by,” he said.
Another officer said 600 police recruits were due to come to the station on Wednesday and Thursday.
“We tried to force them back, but they wouldn’t listen. A car just came by and blew up in their midst,” said one police officer at the scene, putting the number of recruits there at the time in the hundreds.
“I saw a car overtake a minibus and it slammed right into the queue of people,” said Riad Abdul Latif, an internal affairs officer at the police station, who was 100m away when the bomb went off.
The passenger-laden bus was gutted by the blast.
Nervous police officers began firing into the air as residents, desperate for news of loved ones, tried to get to the scene.
Baquba has suffered frequent attacks targeting United States-backed Iraqi security forces, some of which have been claimed by al-Qaeda’s suspected chief in Iraq, Abu Mussab al-Zarqawi.—AFP
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