Attacks In Baghdad Suicide Bombers

Ceerwan Aziz/Reuters

ATTENTION EDITORS – VISUALS OF COVERAGE OF SCENES OF INJURY OR DEATH A man comforts two children who were injured by a suicide car bomb explosion in Baghdad April 14, 2005. At least 11 people were killed in twin suicide bomb blasts near an Interior Ministry building in central Baghdad on Thursday, an official at the Interior Ministry said.

At Least 19 Killed in String of Suicide Attacks Across Iraq
By ROBERT F. WORTH

BAGHDAD, Iraq, April 14 — Insurgents launched a string of suicide attacks and armed assaults in central and northern Iraq today, leaving at least 19 Iraqis dead and scores wounded in the second straight day of renewed bloodshed here.

The attacks, coming a day after a kidnapped American contractor appeared in a videotape surrounded by masked gunmen, were the latest in a recent surge after the relative calm of the past two months. The range of the recent violence has echoed the darker days of the insurgency last year, and made clear that the extraordinary challenges facing the newly-elected government – which could assume power as soon as Sunday – have not subsided.

The worst attacks came in Baghdad, where two suicide bombers detonated their vehicles in quick succession near a police convoy as it passed an Interior Ministry building just before 10 a.m. The massive twin explosions, which had all the marks of a coordinated effort, left at least 14 people dead – all but one of them civilians – and 38 wounded, Interior Ministry officials said. Television footage taken in the wake of the incident showed cars reduced to blackened rubble and bloodied children being lifted into ambulances.

"It was a terrible scene of burning cars, body parts scattered all over the place, with blood puddles in the street and fire engines trying to put out the fires," said Hussein Sabah Jabur, one of the officers on the scene.

Iraqi Interior Minister Falah al Naqib, speaking on BBC Television, said he expected the elevated violence to continue over the next two weeks as the new government takes power. The insurgents, led mostly by hard-line Sunni Arabs, have made clear that they are enraged by the prospect of a government led by Shiites and Kurds.

Several other bombs exploded in the capital throughout the day, including a suicide bomber who detonated his car near an American patrol, but there were no immediate reports of other deaths or injuries. A police intelligence officer was shot to death by masked gunmen, in one of the assassinations that have become almost daily events here.

In the northern city of Kirkuk, four police officers were killed and three were wounded when insurgents surrounded a police station, firing a mortar into a crowd of officers and then raking them with machine gun fire, said Gen. Burhan Taib Saleh, the police chief of Kirkuk province. On Wednesday, nine police officers were killed in Kirkuk when a bomb exploded on a pipeline.

In Tikrit, a suicide bomber detonated his vehicle outside an American base, seriously injuring a United States soldier and two Iraqi soldiers, military officials said.

In northwestern Iraq near the Syrian border, American military officials continued a virtual siege of the city of Qaim, where suicide bombers drove three cars packed with explosives into an American base on Monday. After the attacks, American armored vehicles backed by helicopters blocked access to the city and fought a major battle with insurgents, killing about two dozen on Tuesday and Wednesday, Iraqi security officials in Qaim said.

The group known as Al Qaeda in Iraq -the terrorist network led by the Jordanian militant Abu Musab al Zarqawi – claimed responsibility for the twin car bombs in Baghdad in an Internet posting, and indicated that the Interior Ministry was the intended target.

The message also suggested that the attacks may have been motivated in part by the visit to Baghdad Wednesday of Robert Zoellick, the deputy secretary of state. The Internet posting referred mockingly to a "speaker of the Jews and Christians" who had made comments the day before about the Iraqi government’s progress against the insurgency.

Another militant group, Ansar al Sunna, claimed responsibility for the Kirkuk attack in an Internet posting, and said it had carried out the previous day’s attack in Kirkuk as a joint operation with Al Qaeda in Iraq.

American military officials have said they believed jihadist groups had begun collaborating, but this appeared to be the first time the groups said they worked together on an attack.

Fakhri al Qaisi, the leader of a hard-line Sunni group who says he has links with insurgent fighters, said in an interview today that one reason for the upsurge in attacks was the presence this week of Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld and Mr. Zoellick in Baghdad.

But Mr. Qaisi said the attacks, which extended well beyond the capital, are also partly an outpouring of anger that has been bottled up over the past two months, as some Sunni rebels waited to see if their demands for a timetable for American withdrawal would be respected. Mr. Qaisi said he made efforts in recent weeks to open talks with American officials on behalf of the resistance, but was rebuffed.

The kidnapped American contractor, Jeff Ake, asked in the videotape released Wednesday that the United States government "open a dialogue" with the resistance, according to Al Jazeera, which broadcast it without audio. He also asked American officials to withdraw from Iraq, and to work to save his life, the station said.

The kidnappers did not identify themselves in the videotape. American embassy officials said today that they were working to secure Mr. Ake’s release, but still had no information about who the kidnappers were.

In Baghdad, witnesses said the first suicide bomber detonated his vehicle at the front end of the police convoy, which was on its way to an oil refinery to collect fuel. The explosion sent up massive pillars of flame and smoke, and as the convoy came to a halt, gunfire rained down on it from several abandoned buildings nearby. Police officers ran from their cars, firing wildly, said Mr. Jabur, the officer.

Minutes later, the second car bomber surrounded by stopped traffic — exploded at the rear end of the convoy, incinerating several cars full of civilians but killing only one police officer.

Layla Istifan and Mona Mahmoud contributed reporting from Baghdad for this article.

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