Bombers Kill 27 at Baghdad Police Academy

By Ellen Knickmeyer and Salih Saif Aldin
Washington Post Foreign Service
Wednesday, December 7, 2005

BAGHDAD, Dec. 6 -- A suicide bomber blew himself up at a Baghdad police academy on Tuesday, sending terrified survivors rushing for the shelter of concrete blast walls where a second bomber detonated explosives strapped to his body, witnesses said.

The double suicide attack -- the latest, minor tactical variation in the daily bombings that over nearly three years of war have reduced much of Baghdad's public areas to bleak gray blast walls and rubble -- killed at least 27 people, witnesses and U.S. and Iraqi authorities said. Police quoted by news agencies reported a death toll as high as 34, one of the deadliest attacks on Iraqi security forces in months.

The attack targeted Baghdad's main police academy, and the majority of the dead were recruits. An American contractor was among roughly 50 wounded, the U.S. military said.

One witness reported that some of the victims were trampled as survivors squeezed through a narrow opening between blast walls.

Police Capt. Salah Hassan Falahi, interviewed by phone after witnessing the attack, said the assailants hit as police officers and recruits were assembling for what he said was the academy's standard roll call before lunch each day. The bombers slipped in as the last of them were lining up, he said.

"When the explosion took place, there was chaos and panic," Falahi said.

Falahi and a second person at the scene, who did not directly witness the first blast, reported the panicked rush to the blast walls. The second suicide bomber, they said, ran alongside survivors, setting off his charge just as those around him thought they had reached safety.

Witnesses said U.S. forces detained Iraqi security workers at the entrances to the academy to question them about how the bombers, who wore vests packed with explosives, entered the heavily guarded grounds.

In other violence, Iraqi soldiers patrolling a highway linking Baghdad with Jordan found the bodies of 11 men by the side of the road, handcuffed and shot in the head, Lt. Hussein Hadhood said. The men were in civilian trousers and shirts. The bodies, found Monday, had been partially eaten by animals, leading police to believe they had been there for several days, Hadhood said.

There was no immediate word on the identities of the men. Sunni Arabs, a minority in Iraq, repeatedly have accused militias linked to the Shiite Muslim-led government of operating death squads that target Sunnis. Hundreds of bodies of Sunni men have been found in similar discoveries in recent months along remote stretches of road.

Iraqi police found the bodies of another nine men by the side of a road between the predominantly Sunni cities of Fallujah and Ramadi, according to an Iraqi police captain who would not give his name. Police believe the victims were set upon by armed men -- possibly bandits -- who stole their car, the captain said.

Highway robberies, kidnappings and other crimes have soared since the toppling of Saddam Hussein's dictatorship in 2003, making travel between regions of the country dangerous for foreigners and Iraqis. Kidnapping of Westerners has rebounded in recent weeks after months of relative decline.

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