By John Ward Anderson
Washington Post Foreign Service
Monday, June 11, 2007
BAGHDAD, June 10 -- A suicide truck bomber plowed his vehicle through the gates of a police station north of Baghdad on Sunday and detonated his explosives, collapsing the building and killing at least 12 people, witnesses and hospital officials said.
About 60 people were injured in the 10:30 a.m. blast, which occurred at the Salahuddin provincial highway patrol headquarters in Alam, a village about four miles east of Tikrit, 110 miles north of Baghdad.
Mahmoud al-Ajili, a policeman who lost his left arm in the explosion, said he and other officers were guarding the perimeter of the station area when he saw a truck drive past, veer suddenly toward the headquarters building and crash through the front gate, which local officials said was largely ornamental.
Ajili said he knew what would happen next.
"A big explosion occurred, and I saw a big mass of fire fall from the sky to the earth, and the ground was shaking," he recalled in an interview from his hospital bed. "Then a big piece of metal from the truck hit my arm and smashed the bone. The impact threw us to the other side of the street."
The entire two-story building collapsed, trapping many people inside, officials said. One policeman reportedly was rescued after he used his cellphone to call for help from beneath the rubble.
"This is the first bombing in Alam, and that's why people did not expect an explosion and the police station was not protected well enough," Ajili said.
Hakeen al-Azzawi, head of Salahuddin Hospital, where many of the wounded were taken, said the headquarters did not have concrete blast walls around it -- a standard security precaution for public buildings in Iraq.
Later in the day, insurgents blew up a highway overpass south of Baghdad and apparently killed three U.S. soldiers, U.S. and Iraqi security officials said. There were conflicting reports about whether the soldiers, some of whom reportedly were trapped in the debris, were on the overpass or under it when the blast occurred.
The Associated Press reported that the incident, which was witnessed by a reporter and photographer from the news agency, took place on a highway about 15 miles south of Baghdad. The report said that as a U.S. convoy passed, the driver of a car detonated explosives next to one of the overpass support pillars, collapsing the span and trapping soldiers in the rubble. The U.S. Army had a checkpoint and a tent on top of the overpass, the AP said.
The U.S. military also announced the deaths of two soldiers, one killed Sunday during combat operations in southern Baghdad, the other killed Saturday by small-arms fire in Diyala province, north of Baghdad.
Iraqi security officials said 31 people were killed in mortar strikes, suicide attacks, roadside bombings and other violence Sunday. An Interior Ministry official who was not allowed to be quoted by name said Iraqi security forces killed 30 insurgents in three attacks outside the capital. The report could not be independently confirmed.
Other Washington Post staff contributed to this report.