- The Washington Times - Friday, June 29, 2007

BAGHDAD — A car bomb killed 22 persons yesterday in a bus station in western Baghdad, and police said 20 beheaded bodies were discovered on the banks of the Tigris River southeast of the capital. Government security officials raised doubts about the decapitation report.

The car bomb ripped through a crowded transport hub in southwest Baghdad’s Baiyaa neighborhood during morning rush hour, killing at least 22 persons and wounding more than 50, police said.

Many of the victims had been lining up for bus rides to work. About 40 minibuses were incinerated, police said.

Baiyaa is a mixed area with a Shi’ite majority. It is one of a string of neighborhoods just south of the main road to Baghdad International Airport where sectarian tensions have been running high.

To the south, two policemen from separate commands said the 20 decapitated bodies were found near the Sunni Muslim village of Um al-Abeed, near the city of Salman Pak, which lies 14 miles southeast of Baghdad.

The bodies — all men ages 20 to 40 — had their hands and legs bound, and some of the heads were found next to the bodies, the two officers said on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to release the information.

One of the police officers who gave information is based at Interior Ministry headquarters in the capital; the other is based in Kut, 100 miles southeast of Baghdad.

However, an official in Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s office said no such report had been received. He also spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not supposed to talk to the press.

Mr. al-Maliki’s office normally would be informed of incidents of serious violence and some reports of attacks in the past have proven false.

In e-mail, a U.S. military spokeswoman, Maj. Alayne Conway, said U.S. aircraft spotted what appeared to be five bodies on the east side of the Tigris River north of Salman Pak.

U.S. ground troops went to area but could not find the bodies.

Sporadic clashes had been under way in the Salman Pak area for several days, between Interior Ministry commandos and suspected insurgents, the Kut officer said.

Salman Pak and its surrounding area has been the focus of new U.S. military operations to oust suspected al Qaeda fighters from the Baghdad’s outskirts. American forces began a drive into Salman Pak and neighboring Arab Jabour two weeks ago.

At the time, ground forces commander Lt. Gen. Raymond Odierno said U.S. troops were heading into those areas in force for the first time in three years.

One U.S. soldier was killed and another wounded by a roadside bomb yesterday during a combat patrol in eastern Baghdad, the military said.

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