BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) — A suicide attacker blew up a car
packed with explosives in a crowd of hundreds of Iraqis waiting
outside a Baghdad army recruiting center yesterday, killing 47
people in the second bombing in two days targeting Iraqis working
with the U.S.-led coalition.
The attack — a day after a suicide bombing against a
police station south of the capital killed up to 53 people —
backed threats that insurgents would step up violence to disrupt
the planned June 30 handover of power to the Iraqis.
A campaign to accelerate attacks against Iraqi
“collaborators” and Shiite Muslims was outlined in a
document sent to al-Qaida leaders that was intercepted by the U.S.
military. The letter was believed to have been written by a
Jordanian militant in Iraq, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, who said he
sought to spark a Sunni-Shiite civil war in a last-ditch attempt to
wreck the handover.
The U.S. military announced a $10 million bounty for al-Zarqawi,
Maj. Gen. Charles Swannack, Jr., commander of the 82nd Airborne
The Baghdad attack could be part of “the ongoing pattern
of intimidation we’ve seen of late,” Brig. Gen. Mark
Kimmitt, the military’s deputy operations chief in Baghdad,
told The Associated Press in an e-mail interview. “We have
stated numerous times that in the lead-up to governance, there
could be an uptick in the violence.”
There was no immediate indication who was behind
yesterday’s attack but Col. Ralph Baker of the 1st Armored
Division said it resembled “the operating technique” of
al-Qaida or Ansar al-Islam, a radical Muslim group linked to Osama
bin Laden’s terror network.
A U.S. government official in Washington said it’s not
known who was responsible for the two bombings. “You
can’t rule out Zarqawi’s involvement, but it’s
more likely the work of former Baathists,” the official said,
speaking on the condition of anonymity.
The blast tore into would-be army volunteers waiting outside the
recruitment center less than a mile from the heavily fortified
Green Zone, where the U.S. administration has its headquarters.
Baker said a man driving a white 1991 Oldsmobile Cutlass Sierra
detonated about 300 to 500 pounds of explosives.
The U.S. military command said 47 were killed and 55 were
wounded. Earlier, the Iraqi Interior Ministry said 46 people were
killed and 54 wounded. Ministry officials could not be reached on
whether the Iraqi figure had been updated.
The Interior Ministry said 46 people were killed and 54 wounded.
Maj. John Frisbie, spokesman of the 2nd Brigade 1st Armored
Division, put the death toll at 36.
Charred debris from the vehicle was scattered across the road in
front of the center as a heavy rain soaked troops and FBI agents
looking for evidence.
The recruitment center was surrounded by barbed wire and had
sandbagged posts in front of it. Around 300 Iraqis were gathered
outside its locked gates, waiting for it to open, and were
completely exposed. Some were lined up to join the military, others
waiting to depart for a training camp in Jordan.
“I was just telling my buddy that it was very dangerous to
be standing here,” said Ali Hussein, 22. He lay on a bed
soaked in blood at Karkh Hospital, his body shaking as he gasped
He said he saw a white Oldsmobile approaching the crowd.
“Then I felt nothing but fire around me.” His legs were
covered in bandages and he had broken bones.
Ghasan Sameer, 32, an officer in the new Iraqi army who also was
wounded, said the car drove into the crowd and ran over some people