- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 5, 2005

BAGHDAD — Terrorists killed at least 22 persons in three attacks targeting Iraqi security forces in Baghdad yesterday, including one by a suicide bomber in line outside an army recruitment center, police said.

A similar attack Wednesday by a suicide bomber in line outside a police recruitment center in the northern Kurdish city of Irbil killed 60 Iraqis and wounded 150.

The attacks are part of an escalation of violence aimed at destabilizing Iraq’s new democratic government, which held its first Cabinet meeting yesterday.

Elsewhere, a car bomb exploded near a police patrol in Mosul, 225 miles northwest of Baghdad, killing four policemen and wounding five, police and the U.S. military said.

U.S. forces searched a hospital in central Iraq last week for terror suspects after receiving a tip, but none was found, the military said yesterday.

Marine Corps Lt. Gen. James T. Conway, director of operations for the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said there was no evidence that top terrorist leader Abu Musab Zarqawi was ever at the hospital in Ramadi and that the raid was not based on information he was there.

No insurgents were found in the hospital, he said at the Pentagon, adding that the military has been unable to confirm reports that Zarqawi was wounded in a firefight in Rawa or otherwise injured or sick.

Zarqawi, leader of the country’s most-feared terrorist group, al Qaeda in Iraq, is the most-wanted man in Iraq and has been tied to many bombings and kidnappings since dictator Saddam Hussein was driven from power in 2003.

In yesterday’s worst violence, a man set off explosives strapped to his body while standing in a long line of job applicants outside an army recruitment office in central Baghdad, police said. At least 13 persons were killed and 20 wounded, said Iraqi army Lt. Salam Wahab, who works at the center.

Insurgents typically have attacked such centers with car bombs, and many centers are protected by high blast walls. But witnesses said this attacker walked past a high wall topped with barbed wire to the entrance and detonated his explosives.

In western Baghdad, insurgents attacked two police patrols, killing nine officers.

The government is grappling with how to deal with an insurgency seemingly bent on escalating attacks.

Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari had hoped to draw support away from the insurgency by including in his Cabinet members of the disaffected Sunni Arab minority, which ruled under Saddam. But members of his Shi’ite-dominated alliance have blocked candidates with links to Saddam’s regime.

Mr. al-Jaafari’s 37-member Cabinet, most of whom were sworn in Tuesday, includes four Sunni ministers — in relatively minor posts. Months after the Jan. 30 parliamentary elections, bickering continued over two deputy prime minister slots and five portfolios that are in temporary hands, including defense.

Al-Jaafari aide Laith Kuba said the seven vacancies would be filled by tomorrow and put before parliament for a vote Sunday.

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