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At Least 12 Iraqis Killed in Car Bombings

November 23, 2003

BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) _ Attackers struck two police stations with back-to-back car bombings Saturday, killing themselves and at least 12 other Iraqis. In Baghdad, a missile slammed into the wing of a DHL cargo jet, forcing it to land in the first such attack on a commercial plane in Iraq.

U.S. officials warned of even more attacks as the Islamic holy month of Ramadan nears its end, expected on Tuesday. A string of bombings since Wednesday appeared aimed at frightening Iraqis friendly to the U.S.-led coalition, while the attack on the jet halted commercial flights and highlighted the danger at Baghdad airport, a major U.S. base.

The suicide bombers struck two police stations northeast of Baghdad within 30 minutes. In the market town of Khan Bani Saad, a Chevrolet Caprice sped through a guard’s gunfire Saturday morning and exploded at the station gate, police said.

Capt. Ryan McCormick of the 4th Infantry Division said 10 people were killed: six policemen, three civilians and the driver. Iraqi police said one of the dead was a 5-year-old girl. Another 10 people were wounded, McCormick said.

Iraqi police Sgt. Aqil Suheil, who was wounded in the legs in the attack, said he was washing his car when he saw the bomber speed into the station.

``I heard a loud explosion. I found myself under the car,″ he said. ``I got out quickly and ran toward the street and then lost consciousness.″

In Baqouba, 12 miles to the northeast, a white SUV approached the gate to a police station at normal speed but ignored orders to stop and then blew up at the checkpoint, witnesses said.

Three policemen and the driver were killed, and one policeman was missing, Lt. Wisam Ahmed said. At least 10 civilians were hurt. A coalition official said on condition of anonymity that five policemen were killed and 15 were wounded in the attack.

In Baghdad, an Airbus A300 operated by the Belgium-based DHL became the first civilian airliner to be hit by insurgents, who have shot down several military helicopters with shoulder-fired rockets.

A photograph showed flames about two-thirds down the trailing edge of the left wing. The plane turned back and landed at the airport, and all three crewmembers _ two Belgians and a Briton _ emerged safely.

The U.S. occupation authority said it was investigating the cause, but a military official said on condition of anonymity that a SAM-7 missile struck the plane.

After the landing, DHL suspended flights through Monday at the airport, a key entry point for supplies and aid. The only commercial carrier flying into Baghdad, Royal Jordanian, also suspended its flights for three days.

Insurgents have downed five U.S. military helicopters in recent weeks using shoulder-fired missiles and rocket-propelled grenades, killing about 40 U.S. servicemen.

Also Saturday, police Col. Abdul-Salam Qanbar, who was in charge of a police force protecting oil installations, was fatally shot in Mosul while heading to a mosque, Police Lt. Col. Mosaed Nayef said.

Nayef said Qanbar’s 8-year-old son was with his father when he was gunned down but was not injured. ``It’s no surprise that anyone in the police may be subjected to this,″ Nayef said.

Early Friday, 4th Infantry Division troops in Baqouba arrested former Iraqi Lt. Gen. Taha Hassan for alleged involvement in mortar attacks on police stations, the Army said. Soldiers also arrested Hassan’s son and another man, who was wounded when gunmen opened fired during the raid.

Police have become targets in postwar Iraq because of their cooperation with the coalition and because they lack the firepower of the Americans. There are about 40,000 police on active duty with another 10,000 undergoing training, the coalition has said. Another 35,000 officers will be trained next year.

The bombings came amid U.S. intelligence reports that anti-American Muslims would carry out more attacks _ to perform what they see as ``good works″ in the final days of Ramadan, said Lt. Col. Steve Russell, a battalion commander in the 4th Infantry Division.

``It is clear that the terrorists have targeted Iraqis, the very Iraqis who are trying to improve the security in Iraq and the lives of ordinary Iraqis,″ coalition spokesman Charles Heatly said.

Since Wednesday, a bomb exploded at the home of a pro-U.S. sheik in Ramadi, a blast occurred at the offices of a U.S.-allied Kurdish political party in Kirkuk and a truck blew up near the office of a British de-mining company in Irbil.

On Saturday, a remotely detonated bomb hidden in a juice cart exploded near an American convoy in the northern city of Mosul, police and witnesses said.

No Americans were injured, but two Iraqis were hurt when, according to police, U.S. soldiers stunned by the explosion opened fire in all directions. The U.S. military said it was investigating.

``I was in my car,″ said taxi driver Hisham Abdullah, 22, who was hospitalized with a gunshot wound. ``The Americans were behind me. They were firing randomly and I was hit in the head.″

Human Rights Watch criticized the insurgents for attacking Iraqi civilians ``perceived to be cooperating″ with the U.S.-led occupation.

``All Iraqi civilians are protected by the Geneva Conventions,″ Joe Stork, an official with the human rights watchdog, said in New York. ``It doesn’t matter whether they sympathize with the U.S. occupation or the insurgents.″

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Associated Press reporters Bassem Mroue in Khan Bani Saad, Sameer N. Yacoub in Baqouba and Slobodan Lekic in Baghdad contributed to this report.

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