- The Washington Times - Friday, July 29, 2005

BAGHDAD — A suicide attacker detonated an explosives belt in a crowd of Iraqi army recruits yesterday in a town near the Syrian border, killing at least 25 and wounding 35, a police general said.

Officials said the attack in Rabiah occurred in the midst of recruits training in a secured area, and they speculated some of the guards might have allowed the bomber to enter the post about 230 miles north of Baghdad.

A recently released U.S. report said Iraqi security forces have suffered from inadequate vetting processes and are highly vulnerable to infiltration by insurgents.

The rebels have made Iraqi police and army recruits a prime target as the United States puts urgency on getting those forces trained sufficiently to assume greater security responsibilities so American and other foreign troops can begin going home next year.

In other violence, two Marines were killed by insurgent gunfire and rocket-propelled grenades in western Iraq, prompting U.S. jets to drop high-tech bombs that destroyed three buildings used by rebels as firing positions, officials said yesterday.

The Marines reported killing nine insurgents, five of them believed to be Syrians, during Thursday’s engagement in a village west of Haditha, about 170 miles west of Baghdad.

An Army soldier died in central Baghdad from injuries suffered in a single-vehicle accident, the U.S. command said. The three deaths brought to 11 the number of U.S. fatalities in Iraq this week.

Iraq’s chief investigative judge, meanwhile, said Saddam Hussein was called to a hearing yesterday to undergo questioning about the crushing of a Shi’ite uprising in 1991, which erupted after U.S.-led forces drove the Iraqi army out of Kuwait.

Saddam answered questions alone during the 45-minute hearing, said Judge Raid Juhi of the Iraqi Special Tribunal, set up to try the former dictator.

Judge Juhi said he expects to soon conclude the criminal investigation into events around the Shi’ite uprising as well as Saddam’s campaign in the late 1980s to force Iraqi Kurds from wide areas of the north. A trial date for the former dictator will be announced in the coming days, Judge Juhi said.

Saddam is expected to stand trial in September for his role in the 1982 massacre of Shi’ite Muslims in Dujail north of Baghdad. It would be the first of what are expected to be about a dozen trials involving Saddam and his key henchmen.

Following a rash of attacks and abductions of diplomats in Iraq, the Philippine Embassy in Baghdad has relocated its employees to Amman, Jordan, Philippine Foreign Undersecretary Jose Brillantes said.

“We continue to maintain our diplomatic ties with Iraq,” Mr. Brillantes said. “The embassy in Baghdad remains open and the diplomats in Baghdad are in Amman for security reasons occasioned by the recent kidnappings of diplomats.”

On Thursday, the U.S. ambassador to Iraq said the American military was considering offering protection to foreign diplomats in Baghdad after al Qaeda agents killed three Arab envoys this month.

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