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US Defense Secretary Visits Baghdad Amid Violence - 2004-02-23

U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld paid a brief visit to Iraq Monday to talk about plans to deploy Iraqi security forces. The visit coincided with a car bombing in northern Iraq outside a police station that killed at least 10 people and injured dozens of others.

Mr. Rumsfeld flew into Baghdad Monday morning to discuss the expansion of Iraq's fledgling security forces and meet with commanders.

He was met at the airport by top U.S. civilian administrator in Iraq, Paul Bremer, under tight security. He held meetings with top military officers who are commanding more than 100,000 U.S. troops occupying Iraq. It is Mr. Rumsfled's fourth visit to Iraq since last year's war toppled the government of Saddam Hussein.

Mr. Rumsfeld flew by U.S. military helicopter to a base west of the capital where he was briefed on plans to begin turning over security to Iraqi police. He also met with members of Iraq's security forces and praised them for their work in helping to bring peace to the war-torn country.

The U.S. plans to withdraw the majority of its troops currently in Baghdad to bases outside the city from where they will provide support to Iraqi forces when the need arises.

Underscoring security concerns, shortly before Mr. Rumsfeld's arrival a car bomb exploded outside a police station in the northern town of Kirkuk. Dozens of people were killed and wounded in the early morning blast.

Iraqi police and emergency workers evacuated the wounded and were digging through the rubble, looking for survivors.

Branded by insurgents as collaborators with the U.S. occupation forces, police have become a common target for suicide bombers in recent weeks.

More than 300 people have been killed by car bombs, so far this year. Two suicide bombers in the northern town, Irbil, last month killed about 100 people in simultaneous attacks.

Mr. Rumsfeld said during a re-fueling stop in Ireland Sunday that the al-Qaida terror network was active in Iraq and was likely behind many of the attacks against coalition forces and Iraqi civilians that have become an almost daily occurrence.