Suicide bombers kill scores in Baghdad

By Ross Colvin

BAGHDAD - Suicide bombers struck across Iraq today in a sharp upsurge in violence that killed more than 60 people, many of them policemen.

In the worst attack, a man driving a truck packed with explosives blew it up outside a police station in Baghdad's volatile southern district of Dora, killing 20. The blast sent a large column of smoke into the air and rattled windows kilometres away in the centre of the city.

Officers said the dead included 14 policemen and three detainees as well as three others working in the building. Another 26 were wounded. The blast caused major damage to the station, burying many victims in the rubble.

Thousands of US and Iraqi troops are sweeping through Baghdad in a major operation to stem communal bloodshed. They have succeeded in reducing the number of sectarian shootings, but curbing daily car bombings has proved more difficult.

President Bush is also sending more troops to the western province of Anbar, where Sunni Arab insurgents are exacting a bloody toll on Iraqi and US forces. The US military said a soldier was killed in combat there on Friday.

A suicide car bomber struck a police station in the Qaim area of Anbar, near the Syrian border, on Saturday while two others struck police checkpoints at about the same time.

Police intelligence officer Hassan Abed Mottar said 10 people were killed, including seven policemen, and 18 more police were wounded.

A suicide truck bomber also struck near a Shi'ite mosque in the town of Haswa about 60 km south of Baghdad, killing nine and wounding 43, a hospital source said. The provincial health directorate put the death toll at 16.

In the northwestern town of Tal Afar a bomber wearing an explosives vest blew himself up in a market, killing 10 people, mayor Najim al Jibouri said. Two of the dead were policemen.

US and Iraqi troops sealed off the Karrada district in the heart of Baghdad, stopping all vehicles and pedestrians from entering the area for several hours as part of the crackdown.

The streets of Karrada, whose residents are mainly Shi'ite Muslims and Christians and include several top politicians, were largely empty. Convoys of Humvee armored vehicles roamed the area, which is close to the international Green Zone.

Minister recovering

Salam al-Zobaie, the Sunni deputy prime minister, was said to be in a good condition on Saturday after being operated on after an attempted assassination attempt by a suicide bomber at a prayer hall in his compound on Friday.

"His condition is very normal, thank God," said Alaa al- Zobaie, one of his brothers. He dismissed reports the bomber was one of Zobaie's security guards.

Brigadier-General Qassim Moussawi, spokesman for security in Baghdad, said on Saturday eight members of Zobaie's entourage were killed in the attack. An aide to Zobaie said the dead included one of Zobaie's brothers and a brother-in-law.

Bush is sending nearly 30,000 additional troops to Iraq, mostly to support the security crackdown in Baghdad, despite growing opposition at home to the unpopular war.

The US House of Representatives voted on Friday to impose a September 1, 2008, deadline for withdrawing all American combat troops from Iraq, prompting a quick promise of a veto from Bush.

Iraq's government stayed silent on a diplomatic row between Britain and Iran over the seizure on Friday by Iranian forces of 15 British marines and sailors in the Shatt al-Arab waterway that forms part of the southern border between Iran and Iraq.

Iran says they entered Iranian waters illegally, while Britain says they were conducting a routine search of ships in Iraqi waters. It has demanded their immediate release.

- REUTERS

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