Police academy bomb kills 20
U.S. and Iraqi forces raided a town as violence exploded in the north.
LOS ANGELES TIMES
BAGHDAD, Iraq -- Violence erupted across northern Iraq on Saturday, as a car bomb killed at least 20 people in front of a police academy and insurgents shot down a U.S. helicopter during an attack on a suspected militant hide-out.
The helicopter's two crew members were injured when it crash-landed in Tal Afar, a town near the Syrian border, the military said. Both were recovered during a rescue operation in which U.S. troops killed two insurgents, the military said.
The attack on the academy in the northern oil city of Kirkuk, at least the fourth on a police building since the United States turned over sovereignty to Iraqis in June, marked a renewed effort by insurgents to disrupt the training of Iraqi security forces that are supposed to relieve the burden on U.S.-led troops charged with maintaining order here.
The upheaval in the north, a usually quiet region of Iraq, was a reminder that large swaths of this war-torn nation remain dangerous for U.S. troops and Iraqis alike.
U.S. Marines also launched an operation Saturday to clean up a troubled area of south-central Iraq, and saboteurs again attacked the country's oil infrastructure in the north and south of the country, the military and Iraqi officials said.
In the first incident in the north Saturday, the attacker detonated the car bomb in Kirkuk as hundreds of recruits were leaving the police academy. The blast left behind a scene of twisted cars, smoking rubble and blood-smeared concrete. Police said 35 people were wounded.
Witnesses reported seeing a car approaching about 100 yards away from the entrance to the academy when it suddenly exploded at around 3:30 p.m. Most of those killed were recruits, but at least one child was among the dead. The bomber also was killed.
With elections scheduled for January, the government headed by Prime Minister Iyad Allawi has struggled to prove its legitimacy in the face of continued challenges such as an armed standoff in the shrine city of Najaf last month by followers of renegade cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, who commands legions of impoverished Shiite Muslims.
Saturday's events suggested that the interim government's problems are far from over as the insurgency rages in different areas of the country.
Raid in Tal Afar
In Tal Afar, U.S. troops and Iraqi national guard forces raided the town Saturday morning in search of insurgents who have fired on security forces in recent days. Three Iraqi guardsmen were injured when they were attacked with rocket-propelled grenades, according to the U.S. military.
A U.S. reconnaissance and attack helicopter that was part of the raid crashed after enemy fire started a blaze in the engine compartment. Later, the United States called in a bomb strike near the town. The results of that attack were unclear.
Local hospital officials reported 12 dead and 60 injured as a result of Saturday's incursion in Tal Afar. Chaos broke out at one hospital as Iraqis seeking to give blood clashed with police, witnesses said.
Ethnic tension flared in the aftermath of the attacks in the north, a worrisome sign in a region where Arabs and Kurds live in close proximity.
In Anbar province in lawless western Iraq, Iraqi police on Saturday announced a series of attacks and kidnappings of government officials by insurgents who have accused them of corruption and "dealing with the Americans."