U.S. officials in Baghdad say 35 people were killed and 75 injured when a suspected car bomb exploded outside a police station south of Baghdad. Officials say the bombing is similar to attacks they blamed on foreign terrorists in the past.
The explosion ripped through a police station in the town of Iskandariya just before mid-day, killing and maiming people and wreaking havoc on the neighborhood. Emergency support and ambulances from as far away as Baghdad, more than 40 kilometers north of the town, were dispatched to the scene of the carnage.
The blast occurred as a large number of people waited outside the police station to apply for jobs.
U.S. military officials said police work in Iraq has become a very dangerous occupation. Brigadier General Mark Kimmitt, the coalition military spokesman, said "today was a tragic day for the Iraqi police service. They lost a number of police officers in the line of duty. I would like to report that this is the first day that I have had to stand here and say that. It is not." He said more than 300 Iraqi policemen have been killed in the line of duty since last April.
U.S. soldiers from the 82nd Airborne Division set up a security perimeter around the area while Iraqi authorities looked for survivors in the rubble. The police station and other structures nearby partially collapsed as a result of the blast.
U.S. military officials have blamed previous attacks against police stations on insurgents who view the Iraqi police and others working with the new government as collaborators with the U.S.-led coalition.
U.S. military officials say they have seized a computer disc containing a letter written by a suspected al-Qaida operative, outlining a plan to incite a sectarian war in Iraq between Shi'ite and Sunni Muslims. They say the letter was written by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, a Jordanian national suspected of having links to Ansar al-Islam, which is an al-Qaida-supported Muslim militant group operating inside Iraq.
Coalition spokesman Dan Senor said the bombing is a sign of the terrorists' growing weakness. "The Zarqawi memo makes it clear that he and al-Qaida forces feel threatened by the growing Iraqi security services and by their increasing effectiveness, and by the process by which we hand over sovereignty to the Iraqi people. And certainly incidents like today are consistent with the sort of attacks one would make against institutions like the Iraqi police and the Iraqi civil defense corps and Iraqi political leaders by which these terrorists feel threatened," he said.
In a separate development in Baghdad, two attacks Monday claimed the lives of several policemen. In both attacks the officers were in their cars when another vehicle approached and gunmen opened fire.