26 killed in Iraq suicide bombing
* More United States troops sent to Mosul
BAGHDAD: A suicide car bomb hit a bus packed with Iraqi National Guards on Sunday, killing 26 people in the deadliest attack of its kind in four months on Iraqis cooperating with US forces to secure a Jan 30 election.
Two bombers in an explosives-laden vehicle veered into the path of the bus and blew it up outside a US military base near the town of Balad, north of Baghdad.
Hours later, insurgents killed three policemen on patrol close to neighbouring Samarra, and shot dead a member of the city’s governing council as well as his driver and bodyguard.
The attacks in the Sunni heartland, where loyalty to deposed dictator Saddam Hussein runs strong, were the latest targeting Iraq’s fledgling security forces and government officials in a bloody campaign to scare voters away from the polls.
A National Guard officer said the car bomb killed 25 soldiers on the way to their posts.
Sunday’s bombing was the deadliest suicide attack against Iraqi security services since mid-September, when at least 47 people were killed outside a Baghdad police station. Relatives wept over the men’s bodies at a local mosque. “My son, my son,” one man wailed as he clutched at a wooden coffin.
A civilian bystander also died in the blast. US and Iraqi officials ushered in the New Year with warnings of an expected spike in pre-election assaults by insurgents trying to drive out US-led forces and topple Iraq’s American-backed government.
A roadside bomb blast killed one US soldier and wounded another north of Baghdad on Saturday, the American military said on Sunday.
Since the US-led invasion of Iraq in March 2003, at least 1,044 American soldiers have been killed in action in Iraq. Including non-combat deaths, the toll is 1,330.
On Sunday, insurgents ordered all municipal workers out of the main local government building in the town of Sharqat, near the volatile northern city of Mosul, and blew it up.
A fresh contingent of US troops arrived in the northern city of Mosul, a mostly Sunni Muslim city which has been the scene of frequent clashes between US troops and insurgents since mid-November and a suicide bombing on a US military base last month that killed 22.
The senior US military commander for Iraq, General John Abizaid said recently that some 6,000 to 8,000 new troops would be deployed in Mosul ahead of the vote.
Iraqi insurgents made a bloody start to 2005 killing at least 14 people, including a US soldier and a Lebanese contractor on Saturday. Two of the dead were beheaded, and one of the attacks, a drive-by shooting of a provincial official, was claimed by an affiliate of Al Qaeda. agencies