Insurgents Kill 140 as Iraq Clashes Escalate

Police inspect the wreckage from a car bombing in central Baghdad. In Ramadi, residents reacted with fury to attacks at a police recruiting station.
Police inspect the wreckage from a car bombing in central Baghdad. In Ramadi, residents reacted with fury to attacks at a police recruiting station. (By Khalid Mohammed -- AP)
By Nelson Hernandez and Saad Sarhan
Washington Post Staff Writers
Friday, January 6, 2006; 7:51 AM

BAGHDAD, Jan. 5 -- The residents of Ramadi had had enough. As they frantically searched the city's hospital for relatives killed and wounded in bomb blasts at a police recruiting station Thursday, they did something they had never publicly done: They blamed al Qaeda in Iraq, the insurgent movement led by Abu Musab Zarqawi.

"Neither the Americans nor the Shiites have any benefit in doing this. It is Zarqawi," said Khalid Saadi, 42, who came to the hospital looking for his brother, Muhammed. Others said they hoped that sympathies in the city, considered a hotbed of support for the Sunni Arab insurgency, would turn against Zarqawi's faction.

Saadi later learned that his brother was dead, one of more than 140 people killed in attacks Thursday in Iraq. The violence, which included a suicide bombing in Karbala, contributed to one of the bloodiest days since the U.S.-led invasion of the country in 2003.

The attacks came a day after insurgents killed 42 people at a funeral in the city of Muqdadiyah. Before Wednesday, the country had enjoyed a measure of calm and even optimism as rival politicians talked of arranging a broad-based coalition government following the Dec. 15 elections.

But the attacks Thursday suggested that the insurgents would remain an important force in the country's future.

At least 80 Sunni Arabs were killed and 61 wounded at the recruiting center in Ramadi, the capital of the Sunni-dominated province of Anbar, when two suicide bombers detonated explosive vests outside the building, said Majeed Tikriti, a doctor at the city's hospital. In an e-mailed statement, U.S. military authorities said 30 people had been killed in the attack.

A hospital official in Karbala said 54 people were killed there.

Also, five American soldiers were killed by a roadside bomb in the capital, the U.S. military said. And gunmen ambushed and killed four Iraqi police officers in Baqubah, north of Baghdad, an Iraqi government spokesman said.

In the Ramadi attack, more than 1,000 men had gathered at the center to apply for new jobs with the Iraqi police, Marine Capt. Jeffrey S. Pool said in the statement. A suicide bomber detonated an explosive vest in the middle of the crowd, witnesses and Iraqi police said.

Wounded and panicked applicants surged forward in hopes of finding a way from the Jersey-walled entrance into the recruiting center, where another bomber was waiting to detonate an explosive belt, said one witness, Amar Oda, who was among those looking for a job.

"I just saw flesh and body parts festooning the cement barriers," Oda, 23, said from his hospital bed, where he was receiving medical treatment for wounds to his head and back.

Some of those killed were tribal leaders who had come to supervise the recruitment of residents into the country's police force, said Majeed Tikriti, a doctor in Ramadi's hospital. Local leaders have repeatedly demanded that U.S. and Iraqi authorities allow men from Ramadi to serve in Iraq's armed forces. They had argued that only locally recruited soldiers could bring a measure of control to the city of 400,000 on the Euphrates River, which is considered one of the key centers of the Sunni-led insurgency.

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