By Omar Fekeiki
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, June 13, 2006 6:21 AM
Two high-level Iraqi police officials narrowly escaped death this morning in a series of suicide attacks that left 20 people slain and scores more wounded.
The explosions targeted police commanders, police stations and patrols, as well as a busy food market in the northern city of Kirkuk, Iraqi police officials said.
Seven police officers were among the dead.
The first attack occurred early in the morning when a suicide attacker drove a car into the house of Col. Taha Salahudeen, chief of the biggest police station in central Kirkuk.
Salahudeen, who was standing in the backyard, was wounded but survived, said Gen. Skeerko Skakir Raheem, police commander of Kirkuk province. One police officer was killed, and 10 people were injured.
Ten minutes later, while police were patrolling Salahudeen's neighborhood by car and on foot, a car bomb exploded near a busy grocery market, Raheem said. Fifteen people, including two policemen, were killed. Several shops in the market were wrecked, and six civilian cars were set ablaze.
A third attack came a short time later, after U.S. and Iraqi soldiers had arrived on the scene. A suicide bomber detonated his explosives-rigged car at the entrance of Kirkuk city police headquarters. The blast was aimed at a patrol that included police chief Gen. Torhan Yousif.
Bodyguards and the security personnel at the gate of the building opened fire on the car in a futile attempt to prevent the attacker from detonating his bomb, said Yousif, who escaped the incident unharmed. Two policemen were killed in the blast. Ten people -- eight of them civilians -- were wounded, Yousif said.
Two more explosions were launched in Kirkuk a short time later, both targeting police patrols. A policeman was killed, and six people wounded, in an attack in the Oil neighborhood in the eastern part of the city.
In the al-Wasity neighborhood, to the south, an improvised explosive device killed one civilian and wounded five police officers, Raheem said.
Police later found explosives ready to be detonated in another car, which arrived at the scene of the al-Wasity bombing and tried to break through a police cordon. Police sprayed the vehicle with bullets, killing its driver.
A Washington Post special correspondent in Kirkuk contributed to the report.