BAGHDAD, Iraq—A terrorist drove his bomb-rigged black Opel sedan into a crowd of policemen in western Iraq on Monday, killing eight officers and wounding nine others, and three U.S. soldiers died in other incidents around the nation.
The suicide bombing underscored how anti-U.S. insurgents are seeking to kill recruits to the nascent Iraqi police force while avoiding combat with better-protected U.S., British and Iraqi army troops.
The bombing occurred at a police station in Baghdadi, 125 miles west of the capital, Interior Ministry Col. Adnon Abdul Rahman said.
"He drove full speed into a crowd of 30 policemen who were lined up to receive their salaries," Rahman said. He added that most of the injured were in critical condition.
Baghdadi lies within the Sunni Triangle, the insurgent stronghold dominated by minority Sunni Muslims, who ruled Iraq under the ousted regime of Saddam Hussein.
In other violence, two U.S. soldiers died and three others were wounded when their patrol hit a bomb in northwestern Baghdad, a U.S. military statement said.
Another U.S. soldier died and two others were injured in a vehicular accident near Kut, in southern Iraq.
And four Iraqi civilians were wounded when a bomb exploded near a U.S. military convoy in Baghdad, Rahman said.
U.S. Marines and Iraqi forces discovered a large stockpile of mortars, artillery rounds and rockets in the troubled area along the Euphrates River south of Baghdad. They arrested 32 "suspected anti-Iraqi militants," the Marines announced Monday. A joint operation by 5,000 U.S., British and Iraqi forces began last week in the lawless area.
Violence along the highway from central Baghdad to its airport has become so perilous from sniper attacks and car bombings that British diplomats have "ceased all movements" along the road, the British government said Monday.
In northern Iraq around Mosul, Iraq's third-largest city, constant insurgent attacks on police stations have been so intense this month that only about 1,100 of the 4,000 officers posted there now turn up for work each day. Sixty bodies have turned up around the city in the last two weeks, some of them members of the security forces.
Brig. Gen. Carter F. Ham, the top U.S. commander in northwest Iraq, said the violence could imperil voting in parts of Mosul, although he said he thinks the security situation will improve before the nationwide vote on Jan. 30.
"Without the numbers of Iraqi police that we would like to have, it significantly increases the level of difficulty of establishing the environment we need for elections," Ham told the BBC.
(Yasser Salihee is a special correspondent in Baghdad. Knight Ridder Newspapers correspondent Tim Johnson contributed to this report.)
(c) 2004, Knight Ridder/Tribune Information Services.