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Suicide bombers kill at least 12 in Iraq

BAGHDAD, Iraq—Suicide bombers killed at least 12 Iraqis and themselves Saturday in attacks on police stations north of the capital. Insurgents apparently struck again at Baghdad's airport, where a private cargo plane turned back safely after its wingtip was hit on take-off by what authorities said was probably a shoulder-fired missile.

"We have some intelligence of things coming from the ground," said a military official familiar with the investigation, speaking on the condition that he not be identified.

Insurgents have carried out six car bombings since Wednesday, mainly killing Iraqis. In Saturday's attacks, in Baquoba and Khan Bani Saad, both northeast of the capital, all the dead were Iraqi police or civilians. Authorities said that at least 20 additional civilians were injured.

Witnesses said the stricken plane, a A-300 Airbus operated by the Brussels-based DHL cargo company, was trailing smoke and flames when it turned around to make an emergency landing at about 9 a.m. local time Saturday.

"There were no injuries to the crew of three," said U.S. military spokesman Lt. Col. Byron James. The plane had been bound for Bahrain, an island nation in the Persian Gulf.

Royal Jordanian airlines cancelled their single daily flight to Baghdad at least until next Wednesday. Royal Jordanian affiliate Royal Wings has been the only commercial passenger carrier into the Iraqi capital, operating a small propeller-driven aircraft of about 70 seats.

"We want to make sure that the security is right for the safety of our aircraft and passengers," said Hussein Dabbas, Royal Jordanian's marketing director in Amman.

AirServ, a charter service that carries only coalition and non-governmental organization officials, continues to fly.

About 25 flights per day take off and land from the airport, mainly U.S. military aircraft.

There have been numerous reports of missile firings at aircraft in the low and slow phases of flight as they take off or land. Pilots typically bank sharply while dropping steeply to make their planes harder to hit when landing. They also rise fast on take-off.

"Our pilots are briefed (on the threat). We'll keep flying and keep going out trying to find the weapons," said the military official involved with the probe of Saturday's incident.

DHL, which operates two or three flights a day, has been the only way to send or receive mail in Baghdad. The cargo carrier cancelled one flight after the incident, but was expected to resume service.

Saturday's attack was the worst nightmare for scores of aid workers, journalists, businesspeople and contractors who travel regularly into Baghdad.

With passenger aircraft unavailable, the only option is a 12-hour overland route to Jordan that has been plagued with thieves and carjackers. Many travelers have been robbed at gunpoint on the road, their cars, money and equipment stolen. Often the bandits allow their victims to keep their satellite telephones to call for help.

The road south to Kuwait is equally risky. Bandits abducted a Portuguese journalist last week, but he was released the next day.


(Knight Ridder correspondent Sudarsan Raghavan contributed to this report.)


(c) 2003, Knight Ridder/Tribune Information Services.