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Car bombings near U.S. military base kill at least 9 Iraqis

TAJI, Iraq—Two car bombings Sunday killed at least nine Iraqis and wounded 30 people, including three U.S. soldiers, near the gate of an American military base north of Baghdad.

The violence was the latest in a string of attacks against U.S. and Iraqi security personnel that underscore the country's continuing security crisis and raise questions about the ability of Iraqi troops to take control of their nation.

The bloodshed has come despite, or perhaps because of, the recent naming of a new Iraqi government and the promise of upcoming sovereignty.

During the past week, ending Sunday, at least 20 Iraqis were killed and more than 100 injured in bombings in and around Baghdad. Nine U.S. soldiers were killed and 10 wounded in the same period.

Sunday's explosions occurred at about 7:30 a.m. near the northern city of Taji, approximately 20 minutes outside Baghdad. A few hours after the blasts, ambulances were still streaming down the highway. Kiowa helicopters hovered overhead, and Humvees with 50-caliber machine guns streamed in and out of the base, a former Iraqi air force facility housing both American soldiers and members of the Iraqi Civil Defense Corps.

While a U.S. spokesman said nine Iraqis were killed, Iraqi policemen on the scene said 10 or 11 died. Many of the Iraqis injured and killed were members of the ICDC or the Iraqi police, according to Iraqi officials.

The injured U.S. soldiers were from Task Force Baghdad, comprised mainly of soldiers from the 1st Calvary Division.

Further north of Taji, near the town of Balad, a 13th Corps Support Command soldier was killed and another injured in a mortar attack on their base.

There were also reports that the day before there had been an attack on an Iraqi police station in the southern Iraqi town of Mussayib. Military officials did not respond to requests for comment, but reports said at least 10 policemen and two civilians were killed when gunmen forced their way into the station, pushed police into a cell and set off explosives in the building.

In Taji, Iraqi policeman Feras Badri was shaken by the carnage.

"We cried this morning when we saw the scene," Badri said. "I saw some of the dead bodies, and they were burned completely, and had turned to ash."

Badri said that shortly after the suicide bombing at one gate of the base, mortars rained down on a second entrance.

Soldiers at the roadblock near the base in Taji would not talk with the press, but Lt. Col. James Hutton of the 1st Calvary Division confirmed the basic facts of the incident there.

One soldier at the roadblock, which had hundreds of cars at a standstill, shouted at the crowd of Iraqis who'd walked up to see what was happening.

Turning to a translator, the sergeant said, "Tell all these people to move back or I'll arrest them." A moment later, he screamed at the crowd, in English, "You think this is fun and games? I'll hold you here all God damn day."

Imad Khadum, a farmer from a nearby town, had been sitting in the traffic for about four hours when the sergeant began yelling. Shaking his head, Khadum said, "We are always the ones who suffer."


(c) 2004, Knight Ridder/Tribune Information Services.