Suicide Bomber Kills 16 at Iraqi Army Base

By Ernesto Londoño
Washington Post Foreign Service
Friday, April 17, 2009

BAGHDAD, April 16 -- A suicide bomber detonated explosives inside an Iraqi army base in western Iraq on Thursday afternoon, killing at least 16 people and wounding 40, Iraqi officials said.

The attack was the second in two weeks targeting Iraqi security installations, and it renewed fears that the country's crippled insurgent groups are making a comeback as the U.S. military starts to withdraw.

The Iraqi Defense Ministry, contradicting the account of officers at the scene, said the explosion wounded 17 people but did not kill anyone. It was not immediately possible to reconcile the reports.

The bomber, wearing an Iraqi army uniform, entered the dining room at a large military base in Habbaniyah, a city in Anbar province, at approximately 12:30 p.m., when it was packed with a lunchtime crowd, said Maj. Yassen al-Dulaimi, an officer stationed there.

"We are shocked by the fact that a suicide bomber was able to infiltrate the guarded camp and passed through the gate to carry out this terrible attack," Dulaimi said.

Emergency personnel transported the wounded to the main hospital in Ramadi, the provincial capital, about 10 miles to the west.

U.S. forces are drawing down their presence in Anbar, the cradle of the insurgency and formerly a bloody battleground where hundreds of U.S. troops were killed.

Dulaimi called the attack a "major setback" for security forces in a province that has become considerably safer in recent years. Iraqi army Capt. Mohammad Yusuf said the casualties included highly trained officers "whose loss will be hard to replace."

Residents of Habbaniyah said they suspect the attack was carried out by al-Qaeda in Iraq, which in recent days has asserted responsibility for two other high-profile attacks, including one that killed five U.S. soldiers last week in the northern city of Mosul.

A Washington Post correspondent in Anbar province contributed to this report.

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