- The Washington Times - Friday, September 17, 2004

BAGHDAD — A suicide car bomber slammed into a line of police cars sealing off a Baghdad neighborhood yesterday as American troops rounded up dozens of suspected militants, including many foreign fighters, capping a day of violence across Iraq that left at least 52 dead.

The car bombing, which killed three persons and wounded 23, was the second this week targeting the capital’s beleaguered police forces.

The attack came hours after U.S. jets pounded suspected hide-outs of an al Qaeda-linked group in and around the insurgent stronghold of Fallujah, killing at least 44 persons.

A half-dozen police cars were blocking a bridge in central Baghdad when a car rammed into them, police officials said. Police asked the driver to stop, but he advanced and exploded his vehicle in the middle of the parked cars.

“I was thrown outside my car,” said a policeman, Ali Jabar, who was being treated at a hospital for wounds to his face and one hand. He blamed insurgents waging a 17-month campaign to oust U.S.-led coalition forces.

“By attacking Iraqi police, they think that they will be sent to heaven, but by God’s will, they are now melting in hell,” Mr. Jabar said.

A wave of bombings, mortar attacks and shootings targeting police and potential recruits has killed hundreds of people nationwide since the fall of Baghdad in March 2003, as militants try to thwart efforts to build a strong Iraqi police force capable of taking over security from American troops.

The police vehicles had been deployed to help American troops seal off the area around Haifa Street, where U.S. and Iraqi forces were raiding suspected insurgent hide-outs, sparking a gunbattle.

Security forces arrested 63 suspects, including Syrians, Sudanese and Egyptians, and seized rockets, grenades and machine guns, Interior Ministry spokesman Sabah Kadhim said. At least 10 persons were wounded in the raids, according to the Health Ministry.

Earlier Friday, U.S. forces intercepted another car carrying explosives as it attempted to break through a checkpoint in the Haifa Street area, the military said. When the vehicle refused to stop, troops opened fire, setting off the explosives. The two persons inside the vehicle were killed and an Iraqi national guard soldier was wounded.

West of Baghdad, hundreds of men dug graves to bury the dead from a wave of American air strikes that started late Thursday and stretched into yesterday in and around Fallujah. Health Ministry official Saad al-Amili said at least 44 persons were killed and 27 wounded in the Fallujah strikes.

The U.S. military said intelligence reports estimated up to 60 militants may have been killed. American troops have not entered Fallujah since ending a three-week siege of the city in April, and the claim could not be verified.

Blood seeped through the blankets and sheets wrapping the corpses, which were lowered into the graves in groups of four.

The U.S. military said a first series of strikes targeted a compound in a village south of Fallujah where up to 90 militants loyal to Jordanian-born terror mastermind Abu Musab Zarqawi were believed to be holed up.

Blood covered the floors of Fallujah General Hospital as doctors struggled to cope with a flood of casualties, many brought to the hospital in private cars. Relatives pounded their chests in grief and denounced the United States.

Religious leaders switched on loudspeakers at the Fallujah mosque, calling on residents to donate blood and chanting: “God is great.”

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