- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 5, 2005

BAGHDAD — A suicide attacker blew up an explosives-laden car outside a police academy south of Baghdad yesterday, killing 20 persons, and another car bomb left five Iraqi policemen dead. Despite the surge of violence aimed at derailing this month’s elections, Iraq’s prime minister again insisted that the voting would go ahead as planned.

“We will not allow the terrorists to stop the political process in Iraq,” Prime Minister Iyad Allawi said as the death toll from insurgent attacks topped 90 in a four-day period this week. “The elections process is the basis for the deepening of the national unity in Iraq.”

Although Mr. Allawi and U.S. military commanders insisted that parliamentary elections must be held as scheduled on Jan. 30, President Ghazi Mashal Ajil al-Yawer, who holds only ceremonial powers, left open the prospect that the vote could be postponed.

“I think that we should continue working on how to hold the elections on schedule, but we should not lack the courage if we see that this is impossible,” said Mr. al-Yawer, a Sunni Muslim tribal leader.

The insurgency is thought to be led by Sunnis and Saddam Hussein’s supporters. U.S. officials think the violence is aimed at blocking the elections and increasing chaos in hopes of driving out the U.S.-led military coalition.

The car bombing outside a gate of the police academy in Hillah, about 60 miles south of Baghdad, was the latest in a series of attacks on Iraqi security forces. More than 1,300 policemen were killed in the final four months of 2004, the Interior Ministry said yesterday.

Police Capt. Hady Hatef in Hillah said the blast occurred during a graduation ceremony at the academy and killed at least 20 persons, including civilians. Polish Lt. Col. Artur Domanski, a spokesman for the multinational force in Hillah, said at least 10 policemen were among the dead and 41 persons were wounded.

In the restive city of Baqouba, 30 miles northeast of Baghdad, a suicide attacker rammed his car into a joint police and Iraqi national guard checkpoint, killing five policemen and wounding eight other Iraqis, said U.S. spokesman Maj. Neal O’Brien. The driver also was killed.

In a separate attack, gunmen killed police Col. Khalifa Hassan and his driver as they headed to work in Baqouba, a hospital official said.

In other violence, an explosives-filled car following a convoy of U.S. and Iraqi troops detonated in western Baghdad yesterday, killing two Iraqi civilians and wounding 10, police said. No troops were hurt.

The attack occurred as a funeral procession was held nearby for the governor of Baghdad, Ali al-Haidari, who was assassinated Tuesday. It was not clear whether the bomb was targeting the mourners, which included Iraqi officials, or the troop convoy. The Ansar al-Sunnah Army, a radical Islamic group, claimed responsibility.

A doctor at the hospital in Ramadi, 60 miles west of Baghdad, said four Iraqi civilians were killed and two were injured when U.S. soldiers opened fire after their convoy was attacked by rocket-propelled grenades in Ramadi. The U.S. military had no information about the incident.

The U.S. military reported that an American soldier with Task Force Olympia was killed and two were wounded Tuesday when a patrol was attacked by small arms and rocket-propelled grenades in Tal Afar in northern Iraq.

Five other servicemen died in three separate attacks on Tuesday, making it the deadliest day for the U.S. military since a suicide bombing killed 14 American soldiers and eight others at a mess tent in Mosul on Dec. 21.

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