- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 10, 2007

12:04 p.m.

BAGHDAD — A woman with explosives hidden beneath her black abaya detonated them today in a crowd of about 200 police recruits northeast of Baghdad, killing at least 16 persons, police and hospital officials said.

The woman walked into the crowd at the main gate of the Muqdadiyah police station and blew herself up, according to a police officer at the scene who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the press.

At least 33 persons were wounded in the mostly Sunni Muslim city about 60 miles northeast of Baghdad, said Dr. Abdul Salam al-Jibour at Muqdadiyah General Hospital.

Meanwhile, U.S. and Iraqi army forces were engaged in fierce fighting with gunmen in two Sunni-dominated neighborhoods of the capital, Fadhil and Sheik Omar, police and witnesses said.

An American helicopter in the battle came under ground fire but was not shot down, a senior U.S. military official said, speaking on the condition of anonymity because U.S. officials were still investigating.

Police said six persons, including an Iraqi soldier, were killed and 21 wounded. Repeated artillery fire rang out across Baghdad at midday, but the target was not clear.

A parked car bomb exploded at a checkpoint near Baghdad University, killing at least six persons and wounding 11, police said. The bomb was packed into a yellow taxicab near the campus, and all of those hurt were civilians, police said.

A Katyusha rocket hit a basketball court at a school for boys in eastern Baghdad, killing a 6-year-old boy and wounding 17 others — 15 students and two teachers, police said.

The U.S. military announced the deaths yesterday of four U.S. soldiers — three killed by a roadside bomb and a secondary explosion in southeastern Baghdad and another killed in combat in western Anbar province.

Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, on a four-day trip to Japan, said there was no need to set a timetable for the withdrawal of U.S. troops from his country.

“We see no need for a withdrawal timetable. We are working as fast as we can,” Mr. al-Maliki said. “To demand the departure of the troops is a democratic right and a right we respect. What governs the departure at the end of the day is how confident we are in the handover process.”

What counts, he added, are “achievements on the ground.”

His comments came a day after tens of thousands of Iraqis took to the streets of two Shi’ite holy cities, demanding that U.S. forces leave the country. The massive rally, called by rebel cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, marked the fourth anniversary of the fall of Baghdad.

Al-Sadr, who remains in seclusion and did not attend, ordered the march as a show of strength not only to Washington but to Iraq’s establishment Shi’ite ayatollahs as well.

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