Sunday, December 7, 2008

BAGHDAD | A series of attacks targeted Iraqi security forces in Baghdad and in the north Saturday, killing at least six people, including a senior member of an anti-al Qaeda group, Iraqi officials said.

One bomb attached to a police truck exploded near a popular vegetable market in southern Baghdad, killing a Sunni tribal leader who was part of a group that has joined forces with U.S. forces against al Qaeda, and his driver, Iraqi officials said.

The attack occurred about 10:30 a.m. just as the truck was leaving the wholesale market in the neighborhood of Dora, where farmers bring their vegetables to sell, said an Iraqi police officer, speaking on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to release information.

Several high-profile attacks have targeted the U.S.-allied groups, known as Sons of Iraq, as well as Iraqi police since the approval of a security pact allowing U.S. troops to stay in the country for three years after a U.N. mandate expires Dec. 31.

The level of fighting in Iraq has dropped significantly, but violence continues, particularly in the north where extremists have not yet been defeated.

A suicide bomber targeted police recruits near a checkpoint in the northern oil town of Kirkuk, killing at least one and wounding 14 other people, police Brig. Gen. Burhan Tayeb Taha said.

The explosion occurred during a recruiting drive at the police academy, another police official, Brig. Gen. Sarhat Qadir, said, adding that the aim was to recruit 1,000 people but only 150 were present when the explosion happened.

Mahdi Shakir, 23, said he had just arrived at the academy with his paperwork when the explosion happened.

“The sound was not big, but I was hit with shrapnel, one piece in my right leg and the other on the right side of my chest,” said Mr. Shakir, who was being treated at a nearby hospital. “My file and documents fell on the ground among the other files of other recruits and were stained with blood.”

Ali Mahmoud, 24, another recruit, said the blast was so powerful that it threw him to the ground.

“The explosion caused panic and chaos. Most of the recruits were very young men and they were shivering in fear,” he said.

Also Saturday, three other members of a U.S.-allied group were killed and four wounded during an ambush by gunmen at a checkpoint near Baqouba, northeast of Baghdad, a Diyala provincial police officer said.

• Associated Press writer Yahya Barzanji in Sulaimaniyah, Iraq, contributed to this report.

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