3 Killed, 25 Injured In Chlorine Attack

By Ernesto Londoño
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, February 22, 2007

BAGHDAD, Feb. 21 -- A tank truck carrying chlorine exploded in western Baghdad on Wednesday, killing three people and wounding at least 25 in the second such attack in as many days, according to a spokesman for Iraq's Interior Ministry.

Brig. Gen. Sadoun Abdul Karim said that several people exposed to the fumes were taken to hospitals and that the explosion set vehicles and shops on fire.

The chlorine attacks appear to be among deadly tactics adopted by insurgents in recent weeks as the U.S. military and the Iraqi government launch a security plan that will include the deployment of thousands of soldiers to outposts in Baghdad. Insurgents have also displayed new prowess in shooting down U.S. helicopters.

The attack came on a day when the political scandal over the reported rape of a Sunni woman by Iraqi police officers escalated, with the Iraqi prime minister's office releasing what it said was a portion of the woman's medical record.

The medical file, e-mailed to reporters by Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's office, includes a highlighted handwritten note with the notation "no vaginal lacerations or obvious injury."

In a simple diagram of the front of the patient's body, there are numerous marks indicating bruises around her inner thighs and groin. There is also a mark indicating a bruise on her head. The woman said she hit her head against the wall as three uniformed police officers raped her Sunday.

The medical record was attached to a news release that said the woman was going to be sued for making up the story.

Maliki said Monday that the rape allegation would be thoroughly investigated by a committee. Hours later, however, he said the investigation concluded that the woman had fabricated the story, and he announced that the accused police officers would be honored.

Maliki, who leads a government dominated by Shiites, did not identify the officers or say why the accolades were justified.

It is unclear how Maliki's office obtained the medical record, but the disclosure of its contents was apparently intended to bolster the conclusion that her story was made up -- and thus defuse a particularly sensitive example of the country's sectarian strife.

The woman has been championed by Sunni politicians, and at least one insurgent group has vowed to carry out attacks against Iraqi security forces in her name. Arab news stations have repeatedly aired a tearful interview in which the woman describes the alleged sexual assault in graphic terms -- a highly unusual move in a country where sex is seldom discussed publicly.

A U.S. military spokesman said Wednesday that he could not immediately confirm the accuracy of the information in the woman's medical record. Military officials have acknowledged that the woman was treated Sunday at the U.S. military-run Ibn Sina Hospital in Baghdad's fortified Green Zone. But they have not disclosed what kind of treatment she received or whether specific tests for rape were administered.

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