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Insurgents Step Up Violence on Civilians

Car Bomb Explodes Near Hospital, Killing 17; Bodies of 12 Found in Mosul

By Doug Struck
Washington Post Foreign Service
Sunday, February 13, 2005; Page A28

BAGHDAD, Feb. 12 -- Insurgents have answered hopes for a post-election calm with a wave of carnage, capping two days of violence with a suicide bombing Saturday in front of a hospital south of Baghdad that killed 17 people.

The car bombing was the deadliest attack on a day that included the discovery of 12 bodies in the northern city of Mosul; a fierce firefight between U.S. troops and insurgents, also in Mosul; and the killing of a prominent judge in Basra, in far southeastern Iraq.

An Iraqi policeman guards the scene of a car bombing near a hospital in Musayyib, 40 miles south of Baghdad. The blast killed 17 and wounded 15. (Hadi Mizban -- AP)

The attack near the hospital occurred in Musayyib, about 40 miles south of the capital. The attacker reportedly followed a police patrol vehicle but fell behind in traffic. The attacker then detonated explosives in his Chevrolet sedan on a busy street outside the hospital at 8:30 a.m. Officials said 17 people were killed and 15 were injured.

"Sick people came here to be treated. Instead of being healed, they are killed," said Mohammed Timimi, a police lieutenant at the scene.

The casualties were taken into the hospital, and a large crowd of relatives gathered to learn whether their loved ones were dead or alive.

"May God avenge this," said Hamza Alwan, 40, who was trying to find his cousins. "They were just normal people."

Meanwhile, election officials said the final results of the Jan. 30 vote for a National Assembly would be announced Sunday.

"We will give three days to verify the results, hear any disputes, and then they will be officially declared final," Farid Ayar, a spokesman for the election commission, said on al-Arabiya television, the Associated Press reported. "All the numbers will be announced tomorrow."

In recent days, attacks across Iraq have been increasingly aimed at vulnerable civilians, as the strategy of the insurgency appears to have turned from targeting U.S. and Iraqi security forces to sowing general chaos and fear among the population. On Friday, gunmen massacred a family of 11 running a bakery, and a car bombing outside a mosque killed 13 people.

Despite a succession of arrests of insurgents, frequent vows of tough action from officials and the reported growth of Iraqi security forces, the attackers have continued to kill.

Iraq's Defense Ministry said Saturday that as part of its efforts against insurgents, it had asked thousands of former military officers who served under former president Saddam Hussein -- including members of the Republican Guard and officers with a rank of lieutenant colonel or lower who were not top Baath Party members -- to return to service.

A spokesman for Prime Minister Ayad Allawi, however, denied that such a step was being taken.

"We haven't discussed it with the defense minister, and we didn't give the okay. This has to go through the prime minister," said Thaer Naqib, the spokesman.

A Defense Ministry spokesman, Maj. Gen. Salih Khuzae, said that because of a high jobless rate, "hundreds of thousands" would answer the call, including lower-ranked members. Servicemen who held ranks below major, however, already had been invited to rejoin, and other estimates put the number of lieutenant colonels, the next higher rank, much lower. In addition, many may refuse to join a force that is the target of daily attacks by insurgents.

"The situation is too dangerous," a former lieutenant colonel said on condition of anonymity. "People want to go back because there are no jobs and no money. But the terrorists follow you when you leave the base, and attack you and your family at home."

U.S. and Iraqi officials are trying to recruit and train replacements for Hussein's military, which had more than 400,000 members when it was disbanded by the U.S. occupation authority shortly after the 2003 invasion. Some former military personnel are believed to have joined the insurgency.

Security forces have warned that violence could rise during the Shiite Muslim festival of Ashura, which reaches its climax next weekend. The government has ordered Iraq's borders closed Feb. 17-22 to try to reduce the number of Shiite pilgrims coming to the holy city of Karbala during that period. Last year during the festival, bomb attacks in Karbala and Baghdad killed 171 people.

Insurgents confronted U.S. forces in Mosul on Saturday morning, disabling a tank and an armored vehicle. The U.S. military said nine insurgents were killed and that there were no American casualties.

A witness in Mosul said three people in a car were killed by gunfire from a U.S. tank. It was unclear whether they were suspected insurgents.

Also in Mosul, the bodies of six men in National Guard uniforms were found. A witness, Sulaiman Mohammed, 25, said a note was found near the bodies announcing that "this is the punishment of those who participated in the Fallujah battle," a reference to a U.S.-led offensive in November that ruined large parts of the insurgent-held city.

Six other bodies, apparently Kurds working as security guards, were also found in Mosul on Saturday, the Associated Press reported.

The killing of the judge, Taha Hussein Amiri, came as he was being driven to work in Basra. Two men opened fire on his car, killing Amiri and seriously wounding his bodyguard, a Justice Ministry spokesman said. Amiri was deputy chief of the appeals court in Basra and was a homicide court judge during Hussein's rule.

The U.S. military announced that one Marine and one soldier were killed in separate vehicle accidents Friday, but gave no further details.

In the northern town of Baiji, a roadside blast killed two policemen and a civilian, the Reuters news agency reported. North of Baghdad, a policeman was slain, and in Baqubah, about 35 miles northeast of the capital, a woman was killed in a car bombing, Reuters reported.

Special correspondents Saad Sarhan in Hilla and Dlovan Brwari in Mosul contributed to this report.

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