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Suicide car bomb kills 3 at central Iraq police HQ

AFP , Thursday 20 Jan 2011
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A suicide attacker blew up a bomb-filled car at a central Iraqi police headquarters on Thursday, killing two policemen and a female journalist in the third attack on local forces in as many days.

Separate roadside bombs in Baghdad and central Iraq, meanwhile, killed two Shia pilgrims as worshippers gathered for Arbaeen commemoration ceremonies, with the latest attacks shattering a relative calm in Iraq following Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki's formation of a new government a month ago.

In Baquba, capital of Diyala province in central Iraq, a suicide bomber rammed his explosives-packed vehicle into the city's main police offices at around 0700 GMT, just 200 metres (yards) from the site of a large suicide car bomb against another security agency Wednesday morning.

"I heard a massive blast and suddenly, there was a rain of shrapnel falling from the sky," said Murtada Aiseh, a 47-year-old local government employee who was in a nearby market with his wife and suffered head injuries.

"I woke up in the hospital and found my wife near my bed; she suffered injuries to her right hand."

Thursday's attack left three dead -- two guards for the headquarters and the journalist -- and 30 wounded, according to Ahmed Alwan, a doctor at Baquba hospital.

An interior ministry official, speaking on condition of anonymity, confirmed the toll.

The journalist, Wejdan Assad Al-Juburi, had been a reporter for the Iraq Al-Mustaqal (Independent Iraq) newspaper.

Alwan added that among the wounded were seven policemen, including a captain, two women and a young child.

"I saw an unmarked car going at high speed right to the main entrance of the police headquarters -- the guards were caught by surprise," said 52-year-old Shaimah Junaid, who was also in the market and suffered burns to her left leg.

"When it got close to them, the car exploded. There was fire and smoke everywhere."

Diyala was an Al-Qaeda stronghold as recently as 2008. While violence has dropped off dramatically both in Diyala and nationwide since then, the province remains one of Iraq's least secure.

Overall, violence in Diyala on Wednesday killed 16 people, including 14 from a suicide attack where an insurgent detonated a bomb-packed ambulance at the offices of the agency responsible for securing government buildings.

That came a day after a suicide bomb at a police recruitment centre in the central city of Tikrit killed 50, the deadliest attack to hit Iraq in more than two months.

The Tikrit blast was the first major strike since Maliki named a new cabinet on 21 December, ending nine months of stalemate after 7 March parliamentary elections.

He has yet to name an interior, defence or national security minister, however, leaving him temporarily in charge of Iraq's entire security apparatus. Also on Thursday, a roadside bomb detonated among a crowd of Shia pilgrims at the Al-Rasheed vegetable market in southern Baghdad, killing one worshipper and wounding nine others, while another such blast in a town southeast of Baquba killed one and injured three, the interior ministry official said.

The groups of pilgrims were walking to the holy Shia shrine city of Karbala, south of the capital, as part of ceremonies to commemorate Arbaeen, which marks 40 days since the anniversary of the death of the revered 7th century Imam Hussein.

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