Militants Gun For Iraqi Pols, Cops

A crater from the blast is seen at the site of an insurgent attack at a police station at Seidiyeh neighbourhood in Baghdad, Iraq Monday July 19, 2004. A white fuel tanker plowed towards a police station in southwest Baghdad early Monday, detonating and killing at least nine people and wounding about 60 others.
Iraqi security officers and government officials continued to bear the brunt or insurgent attacks Monday as a bombing near a police station killed nine.

The body of a police commander who had been kidnapped over the weekend was found. A day earlier, a top defense ministry official was gunned down.

A white fuel tanker rigged with explosives plowed toward a police station in southwest Baghdad, exploding in flames and killing nine people and wounding about 60 others, Iraqi officials and witnesses said.

The massive blast leveled car repair garages and other industrial workshops outside the police station in the industrial neighborhood of Seidiyeh. Cars were crushed under concrete, others turned into flaming wrecks. Corrugated metal roofs were twisted and chunks of buildings were scattered hundreds of yards away.

The attack was the latest in a string of deadly attacks on police, though much of the damage and many of the casualties appeared to have hit the civilians nearby.

In other violence, two civilians were injured when a bomb exploded near a military base in Baqouba, one person was hurt when a rocket-propelled grenade hit a fire station in Baghdad, and a Turkmen broadcaster was killed and two others were injured when their car came under fire in the northern city of Mosul.

In other developments:

  • The Arab network Al-Jazeera says Iraqi insurgents have freed an Egyptian man they had been holding hostage.
  • Three vehicles filled with waving Filipino troops drove out of Iraqi into Kuwait, the last members of the once 51-strong Philippine contingent here that was pulled out to meed the demands of kidnappers holding a Filipino truck driver hostage. Some allies have sharply criticized the move, saying it would only encourage more kidnappings.
  • Almost alone among his pre-war claims, President Bush's infamous 16-word accusation that intelligence showed Iraq was trying to buy uranium in Africa has actually been bolstered by recent reports.
  • Prime Minister Iyad Allawi issued a decree Sunday reopening a controversial newspaper that had been closed by U.S. officials in March, sparking months of fighting between U.S. forces and fighters loyal to radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr.
  • Iraq's new government is carving out its place in global relations. The foreign minister is appointing 43 new ambassadors, who'll be sent to represent Iraq in a wide range of other countries. Diplomats will not be sent to Saudi Arabia or Kuwait for now. Both countries cut ties with Iraq after the 1990 invasion of Kuwait. But Iraqi officials say they expect relations to resume.
  • A British military helicopter crashed in the southern Iraqi city of Basra on Monday, killing one crew member, the Ministry of Defense said. Two other crew members were injured in the crash of the Puma helicopter, the ministry said, adding that an investigation was under way.

    The Baghdad blast, just after 8 a.m., came as officers gathered to receive their daily tasks.

    "We were all standing in a row, listening to our officer as he gave us our assignment for the day," said Mehdi Salah Abed Ali, 32, lying in a bed at al-Yarmuk hospital, a bandage around his leg.

    "There were many policemen standing in the square when the tanker exploded," he said.

    The tanker's presence in the industrial area, close to car repair and electrical workshops, did not raise concerns until it started speeding toward the police station, said Ahmed Nouri, a worker at a nearby car wash.

    "I was standing with a friend when we saw the tanker speeding in an unnatural way," Nouri said, describing the driver as a young man with a light beard.

    The tanker exploded about 490 feet from the fenced in, two-story police station.

    After the attack, protesters gathered chanting, "Long live Saddam," before police came in and dispersed them by firing in the air.

    Insurgents throughout Iraq have used car bombs roadside bombs and other weapons to target police and other officials, whom they view as collaborators with U.S. forces.

    The body of Lt. Col. Nafi al-Kubaisi, the police chief of the town of Heet, was discovered Monday at a market in nearby Fallujah, police said. Al-Kubaisi had been kidnapped Saturday from his police station, said police Capt. Nasir Abdullah.

    Four gunmen drove up as Essam al-Dijaili, the head of the military's supply department, was bringing dinner home Sunday evening and opened fire, killing him and his bodyguard, said Mishal al-Sarraf, an adviser to the defense minister.

    The violence came a day after a U.S. airstrike authorized by Iraqi interim Prime Minister Iyad Allawi hit purported trenches and fighting positions in Fallujah used by al Qaeda linked foreign fighters, killing 14 people, Iraqi officials said.

    Word that Allawi approved the Sunday morning attack was a clear attempt to show that the Iraqi government has taken full sovereignty from the Americans and has firm control, despite its deep reliance on the 160,000 foreign troops, mainly from United States.

    Since the U.S. Marines pulled back from Fallujah — a focal point of resistance to the U.S. occupation — after besieging the city for three weeks in April, the U.S. military has been limited to using missiles attacks and airstrikes to hit potential targets there.

    The nature of Sunday's target, like those hit in previous attacks, was in dispute.

    The U.S. military said it had destroyed trench lines and fighting positions used by fighters loyal to Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the al Qaeda linked Jordanian militant blamed for masterminding car bombings and other attacks in Iraq. The military said 25 al-Zarqawi fighters had been at the site just moments before.

    Fallujah Mayor Mahmoud Ibrahim al-Jirisi said the attack hit a site for civilians supporting the Fallujah Brigade, a militia of local residents that took responsibility for security in the city when the Marines left.

    "There are no Arabs or foreigners with them," he told the pan-Arab television station Al-Jazeera.

    The attack, the sixth U.S. strike on the city in roughly a month, killed 14 people and injured three, according to al-Amili.