At least 36 killed in separate Iraq blasts; Report: US, UK to reduce number of troops by mid-2006
Suicide bombings struckon Sunday, killing at least 23 and injuring dozens more in three attacks on an army recruiting center, a police convoy and civilians, authorities said.
A man strapped with explosives blew himself up at a west Baghdad airfield now used as a military recruiting center, police said. Early casualty reports varied, with a hospital official saying at least 16 died while a Defense Ministry employee reported up to 25 killed.
The explosion took place just before 9 a.m. at the recruiting center, which had been hit several times before by suicide attackers. About 400 would-be recruits jammed the gate Sunday before the bomber detonated himself, police Sgt. Ali Hussein said.
Yarmouk Hospital received 16 bodies and 39 people wounded from the attack, hospital director Ihsan al-Torfy said. He didn't rule out that other victims might have been taken to other hospitals.
Elsewhere, a suicide car bomb went off in the northern Iraqi city of Kirkuk on Sunday, killing at least two civilians and wounding 16 more, police said. The attack occurred at 8.30am (local time) in central Kirkuk on a highway near a hospital and municipal building, police Brigadier General Sarhat Qadir said. The bomber used a Mercedes Benz, Qadir added.
Separately, a suicide car bomber rammed into a police convoy near the northern city of Mosul, killing four policemen and wounding three, police said. The convoy was carrying Brig. Gen. Salim Salih Meshaal, who escaped injury.
Later Sunday, two suicide car bombers killed at least seven Iraqi customs officials along the Syrian border, the U.S. military said, forcing the temporary closure of the checkpoint.
The explosions took place around 2:20 p.m. at the Walid border crossing point, said Marine Capt. Jeffrey Pool, a spokesman for U.S. troops in the western region of Anbar.
U.S. troops closed the border checkpoint on the Iraqi side after the blasts and authorities turned back 300 Iraqis trying to enter fromaccording to a Syrian source who requested anonymity.
Meanwhile, a leaked document from Britain's Defense Ministry indicates the British and U.S. authorities are planning to reduce their troop levels in Iraq by more than half by mid-2006, the Mail on Sunday reported. The memo, reported to have been prepared by British Defense Minister John Reid, said Britain would cut its troop numbers to 3,000 from 8,500 by the middle of next year. The memo said Bush administration planned to cut its forces to 66,000 from about 140,000 by early 2006.
© 2005 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)