- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 24, 2005

BAGHDAD — A suicide bomber wearing a police uniform blew up his car at police headquarters in Tikrit, killing at least 15 persons in Saddam Hussein’s hometown in the bloodiest of several attacks yesterday that claimed 30 lives. Two U.S. soldiers were among the dead.

The suicide bombings and other attacks came as politicians negotiated behind the scenes to forge the alliances needed to win enough backing in the 275-seat National Assembly for the post of prime minister.

The U.S. command said two American soldiers were killed and two wounded in bomb attacks, one northeast of Baghdad in Qaryat and a second near Samarra, west of Qaryat.

In the Sunni Arab stronghold of Tikrit, 80 miles north of Baghdad, a man dressed as a police lieutenant drove through the station’s gates and blew himself up just as dozens of policemen were arriving to relieve colleagues who had worked through the night, police Col. Saad Daham said.

“He waited until the shift change, then he exploded the car,” Col. Daham said, adding that the aim was “to kill as many as possible.” At least 22 persons were wounded.

A bomber killed five persons in Iskandariyah, 30 miles south of the capital, when he blew himself up in front of the local headquarters of a key Shi’ite alliance member, the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq.

Police initially said the attack targeted the police chief, Col. Salman Ali, who escaped unharmed.

In Baghdad, gunmen fired on a bakery, killing two persons and wounding one, police said. Several blasts echoed through the capital at midday and several more after nightfall. Their cause was not known.

Two roadside bombs in Qaim, near the Syrian border, killed four Iraqi National Guardsmen, Iraqi Lt. Col. Abid Ajab Al-Salmani said.

Elsewhere, insurgents ambushed a police patrol in the northern city of Kirkuk with a roadside bomb, killing two officers and injuring three.

U.S. Marines and Iraqi troops, meanwhile, pressed a joint operation to root out insurgents in parts of the so-called Sunni Triangle. The military said it detained 17 terror suspects and seized several weapons caches.

The country’s politicians, meanwhile, continued efforts to build alliances needed to win the prime minister’s post.

The dominant United Iraqi Alliance said yesterday that it won the support of eight members of three tiny parties and boosted its parliamentary strength to 148. The alliance has nominated Ibrahim al-Jaafari, leader of the Islamic Dawa party, for the post of prime minister.

But a splinter group thought to represent about 30 seats in the alliance, and that once supported former Bush administration favorite Ahmed Chalabi, renewed threats to withdraw its support.

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