Iraqi police say a suicide bomber killed up to 25 people at a police recruiting center in Fallujah on Thursday morning, though the number of number of dead and injured have varied.
Sporadic cellular telephone service contributed to the chaos after the bombing, resulting in different reports on the number of dead and injured. U.S. military officials say one policeman was killed in the blast and eight people were wounded, but a Fallujah police official says 25 people were killed, including at least ten policemen and many as 50 were wounded. A city official says at least 20 people were killed in the blast.
The bomber was standing among a group of police recruitslined up to apply for jobs when he detonated the explosives in a vest he was wearing. The center had just opened in eastern Fallujah on Saturday.
Suicide bombers have targeted police stations throughout the course of the Iraq war, as Sunni insurgents and al-Qaida operatives engage in an ongoing attempt to disrupt normal operations throughout the country. The attacks are also intended to discourage Iraqis from cooperating with U.S. troops and the new Iraqi government.
In Baghdad, some 40 miles away, U.S. forces backed by helicopter gunships clashed with suspected al-Qaida gunmen in western Baghdad's Amariyah neighborhood in an engagement that lasted several hours.
Residents in the neighborhood had called for U.S. help because members of al-Qaida, who consider the district part of their so-called Islamic State of Iraq, were preventing students from attending final examinations, shooting randomly and forcing residents to stay in their homes, according to an official of the district council. He spoke on condition of anonymity, fearing retribution from al-Qaida.
Clashes continued into Thursday afternoon, and the council official said the al-Qaida leader in the region, known as Haji Hameed, was killed and 45 other fighters detained.
There was no immediate word on the fighting from the U.S. military.
Meanwhile, U.S. and Iraqi forces continued the search Thursday for five kidnapped Britons. The five were abducted on Tuesday from an Iraqi Finance Ministry data processing building in eastern Baghdad.
The kidnapped victims include four security agents working for the Montreal-based Garda World Security Corporation and one employee of BearingPoint, a McLean, Va.-based management consulting firm.
Compiled from NPR and The Associated Press reports.