Scores killed as attacks target Iraq police

BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) - A swift series of bombings and shootings killed at least 48 people across the Iraqi capital and other provinces early Thursday in attacks that mostly appeared to target police, officials said.

In the worst attack, a car bomb went off near a security checkpoint in Baghdad's downtown shopping district of Karradah killing nine people. Twenty-six people were wounded in that attack, including four policemen, the officials said.

Associated Press footage of the scene showed blood-covered people walking away, and storefronts at several nearby shops were damaged. A gray cloud of smoke hung over the blast site where cars were charred and crumpled.

At least eight more bombs exploded during the morning across Baghdad, killing 18 more people.

And on opposite sides of the capital, gunmen with silenced pistols killed a total of eight policemen at security checkpoints, officials said.

The casualties were confirmed by Baghdad hospital officials. All officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to release the information.

The violence did not stop at Baghdad. Attacks in Baqouba, Kirkuk and in Salahuddin provinces were also reported in the relentless string of assaults that unfolded over a two-hour period.

Officials in Baqouba, 35 miles northeast of the capital, said a suicide bomber blew up his car outside a police station near a market. Two people were killed and eight wounded.

In the ethnically mixed city of Kirkuk, 180 miles north of Baghdad, two police patrols hit roadside bombs. Twenty policemen were injured in the attacks, said police Maj. Gen. Sarhat Qadir.

Bombs in the town of Tuz Khormato outside Kirkuk, wounded three guards outside the office of a Kurdish political party. And south of Baghdad, eight policemen were wounded by a roadside bomb in the town of Madain, said Mayor Jalal Baban. Madain is about 14 miles southeast of the capital.

Widespread violence has decreased since just a few years ago when Iraq teetered on the brink of civil war. But bombings and deadly shootings still happen almost daily.

Iraq's police are generally considered to be the weakest element of the country's security forces. Earlier this week, 20 policemen and recruits were killed by a suicide bomber outside the Baghdad police academy that angry residents blamed on political feuding that is roiling Iraq.

The country has been besieged by political turbulence that began the day after U.S. troops pulled out of Iraq, when an arrest warrant was issued for Sunni Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi on charges he commandeered death squads targeting security forces and government officials.

Al-Hashemi, the country's highest-ranking Sunni, has denied the charges that he described as politically motivated, and blamed the Shiite-led government of trying to unseat him.

Experts worry the case will hike Iraq's already-simmering sectarian tensions.


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