By Karin Brulliard
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, March 19, 2007
BAGHDAD, March 18 -- Insurgents disguised as mechanics slipped into car repair shops on the ground floor of a hotel used as an Iraqi army post in Anbar province, a hub of the Sunni insurgency, then furtively planted bombs before fleeing and blowing up the building on Sunday, police said.
Iraqi army and police forces also discovered the beheaded bodies of nine police officers in an abandoned post office east of Anbar's provincial capital, Ramadi, police Col. Tareq Aduleimi said. The bodies, found as the forces raided suspected hideouts of the insurgent group al-Qaeda in Iraq, showed signs of torture, he said.
The violence in the volatile Sunni-dominated province came on a day that the Iraqi military reported the details of a raid this month on a Sunni legislator's home, where officials said soldiers seized 65 Kalashnikov rifles and found traces of explosives on four cars.
Seven people were arrested in the March 8 raid at the home of Dhafir al-Ani, a lawmaker with the largest Sunni bloc in the Shiite-led parliament, Iraqi military spokesman Qassim al-Moussawi said at a news conference. One man, who had a sniper rifle, remains in custody, he said.
Reached by telephone, Ani called the raid "a humiliation attempt" but declined to place blame for it.
He said all his weapons were registered with the government and denied that his cars contained explosives. The vehicles frequently entered the fortified Green Zone, he said, where they were sniffed by police dogs. He said that those detained were his guards and that they had been tortured by the military.
While a security crackdown in Baghdad has brought relative calm to the capital, bloodshed has risen in surrounding provinces, including Anbar, where insurgents are clashing with U.S.-backed Sunni tribal chiefs for control. Hundreds of American troops have been killed in the province since the U.S.-led invasion four years ago.
The blasts on Sunday demolished Fallujah's al-Salam Hotel -- which means "peace hotel" in Arabic -- and killed or wounded at least 20 people, said Khaled al-Eulaimy, a lieutenant with the Fallujah police.
The U.S. military confirmed that a building in Fallujah was bombed but did not provide details.
In a statement posted on its Web site, the Islamic State of Iraq, a Sunni insurgent group, asserted responsibility for the bombing and said 25 Iraqi soldiers had been killed.
"Brave soldiers of the Islamic State of Iraq booby-trapped the building and the building was fully destroyed," the statement said. "With the help of God, all who were in it died."
At 7:20 a.m. Sunday, Eulaimy said, "a number" of insurgents wearing grease-stained clothing and toting tools entered the car repair shops on the ground floor of the three-story hotel. They used remote controls to detonate the hidden bombs, he said.
Sabah al-Ani, a doctor who lives near the hotel, said he was awakened by what sounded like a "very, very big explosion." By the time he arrived at the hotel a few minutes later, ambulances and military vehicles had surrounded what appeared to be a pile of rubble, he said.
On Friday, hundreds of people were sickened and as many as eight people were killed when three suicide bombers detonated trucks carrying chlorine and explosives near Fallujah and Ramadi. A U.S. military spokesman said al-Qaeda in Iraq probably was behind the attack.
A U.S. Marine was killed in combat in the province on Saturday, the military reported Sunday.
The U.S. military also reported the deaths of two soldiers on Saturday. One was killed in Diyala province in an explosion that wounded five other soldiers. Another died in a noncombat incident; the death is under investigation, the military said.
Also Sunday, a car bomb exploded in Baghdad at a market in the Shiite neighborhood of Shaab, killing at least 12 people and injuring 16, said Abdullah Salman, an officer with the Interior Ministry.
Police found the bodies of 18 people, with gunshot wounds and their hands tied behind their backs, dumped across the capital between Saturday and Sunday afternoons, he said. All showed signs of torture.
Other bombings and shootings Sunday in Baghdad killed at least eight people, police said.
Special correspondents Salih Dehema and Waleed Saffar in Baghdad and other Washington Post staff in Iraq contributed to this report.