December 5, 2004

Insurgents' Attacks Kill at Least 26 Iraqis

BAGHDAD, Iraq, Dec. 4 - Militants carried out deadly strikes in Baghdad and in the northern city of Mosul for the second day on Saturday, with suicide car bomb attacks on police stations and Kurdish militiamen that killed at least 26 and wounded more than 50, the latest in an increasingly violent assault on the country's beleaguered security forces.

In Baghdad, a suicide bomber rammed a minibus packed with explosives into a police station near the capital's protected Green Zone on Saturday morning, killing 8 officers and wounding 38 in a blast that toppled the station's roof.

In Mosul, a suicide bomber in a sedan drove into a convoy of buses carrying Kurdish militiamen in the eastern part of the city, killing at least 18 and wounding 16, officials said. Also in Mosul, two American soldiers were killed and four wounded during an afternoon gun battle during which insurgents fired from a mosque, military officials said. Two United States soldiers died in other parts of the country.

Insurgents with mortars and machine guns also carried out unsuccessful attacks on Saturday on two other police stations, one in the Ghazaliya neighborhood of Baghdad and one in Samarra, 60 miles north of the capital. Two officers were wounded in the attack in Samarra, where American infantry soldiers arrived to help defend the station, military officials said.

The assaults, a day after at least 27 Iraqis were killed in other attacks in Baghdad and Mosul, demonstrated the insurgents' renewed focus on crippling and intimidating the Iraqi officers and troops being trained by Americans to take over their country's security.

The latest attacks also suggested that the rebels, mostly Sunni Arabs, may be trying to destabilize the country by provoking sectarian divisions. On Friday, the insurgents bombed a Shiite mosque in Baghdad, and on Saturday they struck at Kurdish militiamen in an area where tensions between Arabs and Kurds was already running high.

Meanwhile, scattered violence continued elsewhere. In the capital, one American soldier was killed and five were wounded when a roadside bomb detonated near their patrol, military officials said. Near Baquba, to the northeast, another American soldier was killed and one wounded, also by a roadside bomb that badly damaging their vehicle, officials said.

In western Iraq along the Jordanian border, a suicide bomber in a car rammed an American military base on Friday afternoon, killing two coalition soldiers and wounding five, military officials in Baghdad said Saturday. The officials did not provide the nationality of the dead and wounded or any other details of the incident.

In the Baghdad suicide bombing, the blast at 9:30 a.m. was so powerful that it sheared the facade off the Salhiya police station and collapsed its roof. Thick black smoke poured up from the station, just north of the main entrance to the Green Zone, the heavily protected compound that houses embassies and the Iraqi interim government, and the force of the explosion shook windows miles away. Other government buildings, including the Foreign Ministry and the Housing Ministry, are just steps from the station.

About 30 officers were gathering near the front gate for roll call at the time, officers said. The bomber, a young man, drove a Kia minivan up to the gate, and accelerated through the protective wires before anyone could stop him, said Husam Nagim, an officer who was standing nearby.

The bomber was smiling as he drove through the wires, Mr. Nagim said, covered by a blanket on a cot at Yarmouk Hospital two hours later, an IV in his right arm and his mother and brother standing next to him. "We shouted to our colleagues but he was faster," Mr. Nagim said, his voice choked with sobs.

Afterward, mangled and charred bodies lay scattered on the ground, Mr. Nagim recalled. American and Iraqi troops quickly cordoned off the area around the station, which was choked with traffic.

The Mosul suicide bomber struck at about 4 p.m., officials said. The attacker drove a Volkswagen sedan, said Khadom Hamza, 33, a clothing seller who was nearby at the time.

After the blast, shooting broke out - it was not clear who was firing - and mutilated bodies lay scattered around the wreckage of the Kurdish buses, Mr. Hamza said.

In the fiercest fighting in Mosul, militants fired at American patrols from mosques in the Palestine neighborhood, military officials said.

"They were taking fire from rocket propelled grenades, and for sure, small-arms fire from two different mosques," said Lt. Col. Paul Hastings, a military spokesman. U.S. troops returned fire, killing at least six insurgents, he said. "We went into one mosque with the Iraqi National Guard and found hand grenades and rocket-propelled grenades," he said.

A car full of insurgents also threw grenades at the main American military base here before speeding away. No one was hurt in the attack, though military officials said the occupants of the car killed an Iraqi driver who got into an accident with the attackers as they drove away.

On the west side of town, where military officials say close to 100 insurgents staged coordinated grenade, mortar and bomb attacks against American patrols on Friday, there was sporadic violence, with some patrols taking sniper fire from insurgents.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the suicide attacks on Saturday. But the network of the Jordanian militant claimed credit for the Friday attack on the Baghdad police station, as well as other attacks in Mosul last week that left 17 Iraqi national guardsmen and one American soldier dead.

Such claims are impossible to verify. But the continued vigor of the resistance has made clear that the American-led offensive in Falluja last month, for all its success in killing militants there, has not crippled the rebels' ability to mount coordinated and deadly strikes throughout the country.

The attacks on Saturday were the latest in a growing wave of violence aimed at the country's police, soldiers and national guardsmen. On Friday, militants in Baghdad struck another police station in the capital just after dawn, firing mortars, machine guns, and rocket-propelled grenades. After officers inside ran out of ammunition, the attackers stormed the police compound, freeing 50 prisoners and following six fleeing officers to the roof, where they shot and killed them all.

A number of prominent Sunni Arab politicians have cited the attacks as a reason to delay the national and provincial elections scheduled for Jan. 30, the first to take place since the fall of Saddam Hussein. But the leaders of the country's majority Shiites insist that the elections take place as scheduled, and on Thursday, President Bush firmly reiterated the American position that the elections should not be postponed.

Robert F. Worth reported from Baghdad for this article, and Richard A. Oppel Jr. from Mosul. Khalid al-Ansary contributed reporting from Baghdad.