IRAQ Suicide bomber threats increase
Human bombers are more difficult to detect than a speeding vehicle.
BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) -- Blast walls, concrete barricades and concertina-ringed bunkers have sprung up across Iraq to defend against dreaded vehicle bombs. Now, Iraqis increasingly face another threat -- the suicide bomber who appears no different from ordinary people.
On Saturday, three attackers with explosives hidden beneath their clothing blew themselves up in Baghdad and in a Shiite city south of the capital. At least 26 people died in the assaults and nearly 50 were injured, Iraqi officials said.
One of the attackers targeted bystanders and police who had rushed to the scene of an earlier blast.
Although the human bombers cannot carry as much explosives as cars or trucks, they are more difficult to detect than a vehicle speeding toward an intended target. They can also zero in on Iraqi police and soldiers -- a major target for insurgents.
In Saturday's first blast, an attacker blew himself up outside a recruiting station for police special forces in western Baghdad, killing at least 16 other people, including 11 recruits, police and hospital officials said. Another 22 people were injured. A Web statement claimed responsibility in the name of Al-Qaida in Iraq.
Attacks outside Baghdad
The other attacks occurred in Hillah, a mostly Shiite city 60 miles south of Baghdad. Police Capt. Muthana Khalid Ali said the first blast occurred when a suicide bomber detonated a belt of explosives at a police checkpoint in the city center.
Six policemen and the attacker died in the blast, Ali said.
About 10 minutes later, a second suicide attacker blew himself up in a crowd of police and civilians who had rushed to the scene of the first blast, Ali said. Twenty-six people were injured, but only the attacker died, according to Dr. Hashim Suleiman of the Hillah General Hospital.
Hillah, a largely Shiite city, is about 60 miles south of Baghdad. On Feb. 28, a suicide car bomber struck a crowd of police and army recruits in Hillah, killing 125 and wounding more than 140 in the second deadliest attack since the 2003 fall of Saddam Hussein.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the Hillah attacks. However, a posting on an Islamic Web site claimed responsibility for the Baghdad blast in the name of Al-Qaida in Iraq, led by Jordanian terror mastermind Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.
The statement's authenticity could not be confirmed. Al-Zarqawi's group is believed responsible for numerous suicide bombings and beheadings of foreign hostages in Iraq.
In other violence Saturday, three Iraqi soldiers were killed Saturday in a roadside bombing northeast of Baghdad, their commander said. Gunmen also assassinated a police lieutenant colonel in the northern city of Mosul, officials said.
Two other people were killed when a bomb hidden in a vegetable cart exploded Saturday in Mahmoudiya, 12 miles south of Baghdad.
The blast occurred a few minutes after mourners passed by with the body of an aide to Shiite Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani who was slain Friday outside a Baghdad mosque. The mourners were carrying the body through the town en route to burial in the Shiite shrine city of Najaf.
Also Saturday, a policeman and a female relative traveling with him in a civilian car were killed in a drive-by shooting in Kirkuk, north of Baghdad, authorities said.
A parked car bomb exploded Saturday near a police station in the New Baghdad section of the capital, wounding nine people including two policemen, officials said.
More than 1,400 people have been killed in Iraq since Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari announced his Shiite-led government on April 28.
Also Saturday, the U.S. military promised a full investigation into a June 25 encounter in which Iraq's U.N. ambassador, Samir Sumaidaie, said Marines killed his unarmed 21-year-old cousin in "cold blood" in Anbar province.
Sumaidaie said his cousin Mohammed Sumaidaie took Marines doing house-to-house searches to a bedroom to show them where a rifle that had no live ammunition was kept. When the Marines left, he was found in the bedroom with a bullet in his neck, Sumaidaie said.
He called the killing "a betrayal" of the values and aspirations of Iraqis and Americans to defeat the terrorists and build a country based on freedom, democracy and respect for human rights and the rule of law.
"The events described in the allegations roughly correspond to an incident involving Coalition Forces on that day in that general location; therefore a military inquiry has been initiated," Maj. Gen. Stephen T. Johnson said in a statement.
"We take these allegations seriously and will thoroughly investigate this incident to determine what happened," Johnson said, adding that the investigation could take several weeks.
Swiss authorities, meanwhile, said a dual Swiss-Iraqi national was shot and killed in Iraq. Swiss media reports said the victim, identified only as S.J., was accidentally shot by a U.S. soldier but the Swiss Foreign Ministry would not confirm details of his death.
Insurgent attacks have raised tensions among Iraq's varied ethnic and religious groups and have raised fears of civil war. In a statement Saturday, the leader of Iraq's biggest Shiite political party warned against sectarian strife and called on the Iraqi government to step up efforts to fight with militants.
"We stress the importance of being alert and cautious not to be carried away toward the sectarian strife that our enemies want for us," said Abdul-Aziz al-Hakim, head of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq. "We ask the Iraqi government, particularly the security apparatuses, to exert more efforts to strike these terrorist groups."