By Ernesto Londoño
Washington Post Foreign Service
Tuesday, September 16, 2008
BAGHDAD, Sept. 15 -- More than 30 people were killed in bombings in Iraq on Monday, including one in Diyala province in which a female suicide bomber attacked policemen gathered to celebrate the release of a fellow officer from a U.S. detention facility, Iraqi officials said.
At least 20 people were killed and 30 injured in the bombing, according to Lt. Gen. Abdel-Karim al-Rubaie, the commander of military operations in the province.
Abbas Salim Jaafar, 32, an employee with the Iraqi Red Crescent who was wounded in the attack, said the bomber detonated her explosives as food was being served in a garden.
"Despite the fact that a lot of police officers were invited, I notice that there were no security procedures to search the guests," he said.
In Baghdad, twin car bombings near the city's main passport office killed at least 12 people shortly before noon, officials said. The explosions appeared to target an Iraqi army convoy, according to a police official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity. The blasts wounded nearly 40 people, including at least 22 soldiers, the official said.
The car bombings followed a similar deadly attack that killed an Iraqi policeman and a civilian Sunday evening in central Baghdad outside a popular ice cream shop. Suspected insurgents have used car bombs to attack Iraqi security forces regularly in recent months. Such assaults are hard to thwart in Baghdad's bustling streets and often lead to civilian casualties.
Gen. Mizher Mishaher, the commander of the Iraqi army's 11th division, said his troops were targeted Monday while they were on patrol.
"They try to challenge us with these criminal attacks, but it will only increase our insistence to abolish them," Mishaher said. He said insurgents have stepped up attacks against his troops because they have been successful in running insurgents out of havens in Baghdad.
The U.S. military released a statement providing a lower death toll in the Monday bombings in Baghdad. It said the blasts killed an Iraqi soldier and five civilians and wounded 27 people.
"We currently assess this heinous atrocity as an al-Qaeda in Iraq attack," Lt. Col. Steve Stover, a U.S. military spokesman, said in a statement, referring to the Sunni insurgent group.
The blasts occurred seconds apart, according to a Washington Post employee who was trying to renew his passport at the time. Shortly after the explosions, Iraqi soldiers began shooting in the air to dispel the crowd gathered at the site because they feared a third explosion might occur.
Firetrucks put out the burning vehicles, which were a few yards apart, as rescue personnel and citizens loaded wounded people into ambulances and other vehicles. Black smoke from the cars billowed amid the yellow blanket of dust that has enveloped the capital during the past two days.
Also on Monday, Gen. David H. Petraeus said farewell to top Iraqi security officials at a ceremony in his honor at the Iraqi Defense Ministry, the U.S. military said in a statement. Petraeus, who became the top U.S. military official in Iraq in February 2007, is scheduled to formally hand over command on Tuesday to Gen. Raymond T. Odierno.
In a letter to U.S. soldiers, Petraeus praised their work during a period that saw an escalation in U.S. troops and a steep decline in violence. "Your accomplishments have, in fact, been the stuff of history," the general wrote. "Your great work, sacrifice, courage and skill have helped reverse a downward spiral toward civil war."
Special correspondents Zaid Sabah and Qais Mizher contributed to this report.