Two separate attacks on Iraqi police and police recruits left at least 59 dead and more than 100 wounded Tuesday in a continuation of violence that has claimed more than 137 lives since Sunday.
In addition, the military announced that a U.S. soldier was killed and five were wounded when their patrol was attacked with small arms fire in the city of Mosul in northern Iraq Tuesday. Separately, the military said that two soldiers were killed and three were wounded Monday after an attack involving a roadside bomb and small arms fire.
In the worst attack Tuesday, Iraqi Health Ministry officials said a car bomb exploded near a police station in Baghdad as hundreds of potential police recruits were lined up waiting to sign up for duty.
At least 47 were killed in that attack, officials reported, while 114 were wounded.
"They were after those poor young men who wanted to join the Iraqi police," said a policeman on the scene who identified himself only as Hussein. "I can't understand why Iraqis kill other Iraqis."
The blast, apparently from a car bomb loaded with artillery shells, left shrapnel over a wide area, nine burned out cars and a large crater in Haifa Street, the scene of the explosion, where numerous clashes have taken place in the past few weeks.
"We knew that something like this would happen because a large group of young men gather here every day," said Abul Ali, the owner of a small shop near the scene.
Al-Arabiya television reported later that a militant group led by Abu Musab Zarqawi claimed responsibility for the attack, saying that one of its suicide bombers carried it out. "With the grace of God, a lion from our martyrdom brigades was successful in striking a center for apostate police recruits," said a statement from the Zarqawi group, which U.S. authorities say is allied with Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda network.
Later in the afternoon, another car bomb, apparently intended for two civilian vehicles carrying western contractors, detonated prematurely in Baghdad.
And in Baqubah, 30 miles northeast of Baghdad, gunmen attacked a minibus carrying Iraqi policemen, killing 12 and wounding two, according to early reports quoting Baqubah police chief Waleed Azawi.
Police stations have been frequent targets of insurgents attempting to disrupt the interim government and discourage cooperation with it.
In July, a car bomb outside a police recruiting center in Baqubah killed 68 people. The month before, an SUV loaded with explosives killed 35 Iraqis in line to volunteer for the Iraqi military.
In February, a total of 100 people died in similar attacks on army and police recruiting centers in Baghdad.
The latest casualties came during a week when at least 97 civilians and insurgents were killed around the country in some of the most intense violence in months. The Iraqi Health Ministry reported that 17 people were wounded Monday in fighting between insurgents and U.S. forces in the capital while 80 died Sunday.
In other developments Tuesday, officials reported an attack on oil pipelines crossing the Tigris River in northern Iraq. The sabotage knocked out one of Iraq's largest power plants, shutting down electricity to much of Baghdad.
Firefighters struggled to put out the blaze after the attack near Baiji, 155 miles north of Baghdad, news services said. U.S. military officials surveying the blast estimated it could take up to three days to put out the fire.
Barbash reported from Washington.