- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 4, 2005

IRBIL, Iraq — A terrorist blew himself up yesterday near a long line of Iraqi job applicants outside a police-recruitment center in the Kurdish heartland, killing about 60 Iraqis and wounding 150 in the deadliest terrorist attack in more than two months, the U.S. military and Iraqi police said.

A militant group claimed responsibility, saying the attack in the Kurdish city of Irbil was in retaliation for Kurdish militias’ working with U.S. forces.

Later yesterday, a suicide car bomber attacked an Iraqi army checkpoint in Baghdad, killing at least nine soldiers and wounding 16, police said. The U.S. military said as many as 15 soldiers were killed.

In the Irbil bombing, several buildings were damaged, and at least seven parked cars were destroyed by the blast in an upscale neighborhood in this city 220 miles north of Baghdad.

Rescuers carried casualties past pools of blood in the street and loaded them into ambulances and cabs.

Police Capt. Othman Aziz said an Iraqi man stood among dozens of recruits in line outside the two-story building, where every entrant is searched by guards. Shortly before reaching the entrance, the attacker detonated himself, Capt. Aziz said.

However, U.S. Navy Chief Petty Officer James Drake said the blast may have been caused by a suicide driver in a car packed with explosives.

The militant group Ansar al-Sunnah Army posted a statement on its Web site saying it was behind the blast and claiming it was staged by a suicide car bomber.

The attack was the deadliest by terrorists in Iraq since Feb. 28, when a suicide car bomber struck a crowd of police and National Guard recruits outside a medical clinic in Hillah, south of the capital. That attack, which killed 125 persons and wounded more than 140, was the single deadliest terrorist attack.

Militants have stepped up their attacks in the past week, often targeting convoys of U.S. and Iraqi troops, as well as Iraqi police on patrol or at recruitment centers.

In other developments, Iraq’s government announced that Iraqi security forces had captured a nephew of Saddam Hussein’s who purportedly financed insurgents.

Ayman Sabawi, son of one of Saddam’s three half-brothers, was arrested in a raid earlier this month near Tikrit, Saddam’s hometown, 80 miles north of Baghdad, according to the government statement. It said several other suspected militants also were arrested, and a cache of explosives was found.

The U.S. military said two American troops were killed in separate roadside bomb attacks in Baghdad on Tuesday.

Meanwhile, search teams recovered the body of a second American pilot missing after two F-18 Marine Corps planes disappeared over Iraq earlier this week, Reuters news agency reported. The body of the first pilot was found earlier in the week.

The planes had flown from the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson when controllers lost contact with them on Monday night.

A defense official said Tuesday in Washington that they suspected the two fighters collided in midair at 30,000 feet, but no final conclusion had been reached.

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