- The Washington Times - Sunday, July 6, 2003

BAGHDAD — At least seven Iraqi police recruits were killed yesterday by a bomb as they marched in the troubled west Iraq city of Ramadi to celebrate their graduation from a U.S. training course on highway patrols.

The terrorist attack, strongly denounced by the U.S.-led coalition authority here, provided fresh evidence that loyalists of ousted dictator Saddam Hussein and other anti-coalition forces are now targeting their fellow citizens and using increasingly sophisticated weaponry.

“One man was blown off his feet over that wall,” a bystander said. “There were people crying out for help all around.”

Body parts and piles of shoes lay strewn in the street alongside the one-story building where the new recruits had been trained. Hospital sources said that their corridors were so crowded with the injured and their families that doctors and nurses had difficulty getting through to their patients.

At least three U.S. helicopters hovered overhead hours after the blast, while military vehicles roamed the city about 60 miles west of the capital.

Separately, in northern Iraq, U.S. troops raided a Turkish special forces office and detained 11 soldiers, further straining U.S.-Turkey diplomatic ties. A Turkish newspaper reported the men were detained after rumors that they were plotting to kill a senior Iraqi official in Kirkuk, 175 miles north of Baghdad, but protesting Turkish government leaders denied the report.

Meanwhile, a British journalist was shot and killed yesterday outside the Iraqi National Museum in Baghdad, witnesses said. The identity of the journalist, a free-lance television producer who does work for the ITN network, was not immediately determined.

U.S. forces have been training Iraqis to improve domestic security as part of an effort to return ultimate control of the country to an Iraqi-led administration. More than 3,000 security personnel are being trained in Baghdad alone.

The top U.S. official in Iraq blamed the attack on “desperate men” conducting a campaign on behalf of the ousted Saddam.

“Those who refuse to embrace the new Iraq are clearly panicking,” said L. Paul Bremer, coalition senior administrator. “They are turning their sights on Iraqis themselves. Today, they have killed innocent Iraqis with the same disdain toward their own people they showed for 35 years.”

Ramadi is the largest of several Sunni-majority towns to the west and northwest of Baghdad on the banks of the Euphrates River, and it is considered a stronghold of pro-Saddam support. Anti-coalition renegades have attacked coalition troops in these towns — but never before had they targeted their fellow Iraqis.

The explosive device, placed at the foot of a streetlight, appears to have been detonated remotely.

The graduating police officers were marching from a boys’ school, where they underwent five days of training, to a nearby government building when a massive blast tore into them, said Mahmoud Hamad, a 23-year-old survivor. Mr. Hamad suffered wounds to his right arm and leg.

He said that as many as 45 people were wounded by the blast. No Americans were reported injured in the incident.

Anti-coalition militants are developing a range of new attack weapons built from looted munitions, using their explosive charges in bombs triggered by wire, a former Iraqi army officer has told The Washington Times.

Rocket-propelled grenades recently have hit U.S. vehicles in Baghdad and close to Baghdad’s international airport. These weapons are readily available in illegal arms bazaars.

In response to the increasing threat, U.S. forces have been burning down and clearing away trees close to their tank-controlled checkpoints, especially on the dangerous road to the airport.

At many points near U.S. forces, troops have been erecting massive lines of cement-filled blocks. However, these troops, and their newly retrained Iraqi police colleagues, are still vulnerable to snipers and bombers and to grenade attacks when on patrol.

Some of the bombs are simple devices set off with a nine-volt battery, the former Iraqi military officer said. But he — and coalition analysts — fear that the more powerful weapons now being deployed have been put together from munitions left behind when Iraqi soldiers abandoned their ubiquitous storage facilities during the recent war.

Sometimes, these weapons could be obtained simply by breaking locks on storage facilities and, at other times, by removing arms and grenades stored in schools and hospitals by Iraqi irregulars under Saddam.

“They’re using high explosives, each comprising either a quarter- or half-kilogram of TNT or RDX,” also known as cyclonite or hexogen and considered the most powerful and shattering of those high explosives. “Tie them together and attach a long wire, and they can make one heck of a bang,” said the former Iraqi officer.

Despite the difficulties, the U.S.-led military campaign is still within the “original timetable” of 125 days set out by its commanders, British Prime Minister Tony Blair said in a newspaper interview published today.

Speaking to a reporter for the London Observer, Mr. Blair sought to put into perspective the continuing guerrilla attacks on coalition forces — which have left at least 26 U.S. and six British soldiers dead since May 1.

“When I was talking to [U.S. commander Gen. Tommy] Franks the other day, he reminded me that under the original timetable for the conflict, it was going to take 125 days after the ground action began to complete the conflict,” he said. “Well, we are still within 125 days now, so I think it is possible to exaggerate the problems and difficulties,” Mr. Blair said.

However, the human rights group Amnesty International issued a report criticizing the United States and Britain for failing to control Iraq’s postwar lawlessness. The report said “millions of Iraqi men, women and children are paying a terrible price” for the failure to control rampant crime, and the organization demanded urgent action.

This article was based in part on wire service reports.

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