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Car Bomb Kills Eight, Wounds Dozens in Baghdad

Car Bomb Kills Eight, Wounds Dozens in Baghdad

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BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) -- A suicide driver roared through the gates of a police station in Baghdad's biggest Shiite Muslim slum Thursday morning and detonated his car bomb in the courtyard, killing eight policemen and civilians and injuring up to 45 people, authorities reported. The driver and a passenger also were killed.

It was the latest in a string of bombings that have rocked Iraq since August, and like the others no one claimed responsibility for the attack.

Some 50 officers had gathered outside in the compound at about 8:30 a.m. to collect their pay when the white Oldsmobile sped up, police opened fire on it, the bomber crashed into a parked vehicle, and the car exploded.

"I ran and got hit in the leg. When I looked back, all I could see was fire," officer Khalid Sattar Jabar, 25, said from his hospital bed. He said he got a look at the driver: a man with a beard and a thick head of hair.

Mangled police cars were scattered around the bomb site and debris filled the big courtyard in front of the one-story police building. The blast left a crater about 10 feet across and 4 feet deep, a U.S. Army officer at the scene said.

Three policemen and five civilians were killed, said Capt. Sean Kirley of the 2nd Armored Cavalry Regiment. In addition, two people in the car died, said Iraqi police Capt. Bassem Sami.

Sami said 28 people were wounded, but police at Al-Kindi Hospital said 28 wounded were being treated there while officials at Qasim al-Mubarka hospital said they had at least nine. Police said they had reports of an additional eight wounded at Ibn Nafees Hospital.

Ambulances ferried wounded through the jammed traffic of the vast northeast Baghdad slum, formerly known as Saddam City but renamed Sadr City, after an assassinated Shiite cleric, following the U.S.-British invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein's government.

The plague of postwar violence flared elsewhere in the capital as a Spanish military attache was shot to death after four men, one dressed as a Shiite Muslin cleric, knocked on his door at about 8 a.m., according to a Spanish diplomat in Baghdad who spoke on condition of anonymity.

A school guard opposite the diplomat's home said the men tried to drag him out of his house. He escaped, tried to run away and was shot in the head. The diplomat died at the scene.

The Spanish Foreign Ministry identified the dead man as Jose Antonio Bernal Gomez, an air force sergeant attached to Spain's National Intelligence Center.

Angry residents thronged the area around the police station after the bombing, and scores of U.S. soldiers surrounded the building in Humvees. An Iraqi policeman who pushed through the thousands-strong crowd was stabbed in the upper right arm after being set upon by the mob, which chanted "No, no to America!" He was treated by U.S. military medics at the scene.

Associated Press Television News camera crews also were attacked by the crowds and had some equipment stolen. One crew member was slightly injured. Scores of other journalists were jostled by the crowd.

A nearby mosque, meanwhile, blared warnings for people to leave the area for fear of a second booby-trapped car.

"It was a huge blast and everything became dark from the debris and sand. I was thrown to the ground," said Mohammed Adnan, 35, who sells watermelons from a rickety stand across from the station. Vegetable seller Fakhriya Jarallah said two of her sons were repairing the outside wall of the compound when the blast occurred.

"I ran across the road like a madwoman to find out what happened to my sons. But thanks to God they are both safe," she said.

Rumors flew about who might be responsible: Some blamed ultraorthodox Wahhabi Sunni Muslims, religious enemies of the Shiites; policemen said they had been threatened by a local Shiite imam; and others blamed Saddam's ousted Baathists and -- indirectly -- the Americans.

"This is all the fault of the Americans. They didn't catch Saddam," said one woman outside the Al-Mubarka Hospital.

Inside, a police sergeant who was wounded in the legs, Saad Drawal al-Dharaji, 29, said a local imam had threatened to take action against the police station unless it turned over some policemen for "punishment" for having served under Saddam.

"We will have our revenge for this," al-Dharaji said. He said he didn't know the name of the clergyman. A fellow sergeant, Jassim Mohsen, 31, confirmed that duty officers earlier this week recorded the threats, made in both last Friday's sermon and in letters to the police.

Wounded officer Jabar, meanwhile, mentioned another possible motive for a bombing: Demonstrators had rallied at the police station on Wednesday to demand release of Shiite cleric Moayed al-Khazraji, arrested by the U.S. occupation force on Monday and accused of unspecified "criminal and anti-coalition activities." Those protesters dispersed peacefully. "We didn't have the imam," Jabar said.

The police bombing was the latest in a series that began in early August with an attack on the Jordanian Embassy, which was followed by car and truck bombings at the U.N. headquarters in Baghdad and at a Shiite shrine in the southern city of Najaf. More than 120 people were killed, including a leading Shiite cleric.

In another development Thursday, officials said U.S. soldiers conducted a major raid near the Syrian border and detained 112 suspects, including a high-ranking official in the former Republican Guard.

The massive raid Sunday in Al-Qa'im, about six miles from Iraq's western border with Syria, ended with the capture of a man intelligence officials said was a major general in the guard air defense branch.

"The general officer that they captured, Abed Hamed Mowhoush al-Mahalowi ... was reported to have links with Saddam Hussein and was a financier of anti-coalition activities, according to intelligence sources," a military spokeswoman said, on condition of anonymity.

Troops from the 1st and 4th squadrons of the Third Armored Cavalry cordoned off sections of the town and searched 29 houses to find "subversive elements," including 12 of the 13 suspects they had targeted for capture, she said.

(Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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