BAGHDAD, Iraq – Two car bombs shook the capital in quick succession Sunday, killing at least 10 people and wounding 17, including an American soldier, U.S. and Iraqi officials said.
The attack came as Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld met with American troops in a surprise trip to Iraq’s western desert, telling them it was unlikely the United States would pull out any troops before next year’s elections. He said the violence was expected to increase in the run-up to the elections.
A suicide attacker detonated a minibus packed with explosives near an eastern Baghdad police academy, police Cap. Ali Ayez said at the scene. At least four mangled bodies lay on the street amid scattered shoes, papers and a handbag. Police collected body parts on stretchers.
The dead included three police academy students and a female officer, Ayez said.
U.S. forces assisted the wounded, including a police recruit who received stitches in his abdomen. Police recruiting centers have been frequently targeted in an attempt to undercut support for Iraq’s security services.
The nearby Kindi Hospital received 10 bodies and treated five wounded from the blast, said Dr. Ali Ghazi. Police said 15 people were injured in all.
Another car bomb exploded near a small market in the area of the Culture Ministry, police Lt. Ahmed Hussein said at the scene. The blast wounded at least one bystander and left a gaping crater in the road. The bomb may have been aimed at a passing American convoy, Hussein said.
Capt. Mitchell Zornes, of the U.S. 1st Cavalry Division, confirmed that a convoy was targeted in one of the blasts but wasn’t immediately sure which one. One American soldier was wounded and evacuated to a medical facility, he said.
Building up Iraq’s forces
Improvised bombs — some left by the side of the road, others rigged in vehicles — have become insurgents’ weapon of choice in Iraq. U.S. officials are struggling to build up Iraq’s own security resources to cope with the threat.
“Our hope is that as we build up Iraqi forces we will be able to relieve the stress on our forces and see a reduction in coalition forces over some period of time, probably post-Iraqi election.” Rumsfeld told Marines at Al Asad air field in Iraq’s western desert Sunday morning. “But again, it will depend entirely on the security situation here in this country.”
It was Rumsfeld’s first visit here since the United States handed over authority to an interim Iraqi government June 28, but his sixth visit overall. It was his first trip to Anbar province, which includes portions of the so-called Sunni Triangle north and west of Baghdad.
The region had been the heart of tribal support for deposed president Saddam Hussein. Anbar is an insurgent stronghold, including the provincial capital of Ramadi, and the city of Fallujah, where Marines fought fierce battles last spring.
Rumsfeld’s trip here was not announced in advance.
Interim Prime Minister Ayad Allawi’s government hopes to suppress insurgents and take control of rebel enclaves before the legislative elections planned for January. U.S. and Iraqi officials have been negotiating for weeks with tribal and religious leaders in key rebel strongholds but have said they are prepared to use force if talks fail, as they did in Samarra last month.
Yeah… very loud boom.