Bomber Strikes Iraqi Police Recruitment Center
ROBERT SIEGEL, host:
From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel.
MELISSA BLOCK, host:
And I'm Melissa Block.
There were two big attacks on Iraqi security forces today. In Baghdad, a suicide car bomb blew up at an Iraqi army checkpoint, killing at least nine soldiers; 16 more were wounded. And in Erbil, a Kurdish city in the north, a police recruiting center was the site of the deadliest attack in Iraq in months. About 60 people were killed, and dozens more were injured. NPR's Jackie Lyden was just a few hundred feet from the scene of that attack.
JACKIE LYDEN reporting:
On a rainy, cool May morning in central Erbil, the sound of the blast was so loud, those hearing it in a nearby hotel parking lot first took it for a car bomb.
(Soundbite of siren)
LYDEN: But as police, ambulances and passersby rushed to the recruitment center, hidden behind a high wall, it soon became clear that this was not a car bomb, but a one-man operation, a bomber who had reached the doorway of the recruitment center where job candidates were queuing up. Security officers saw the man had explosives, but could not stop him from detonating. Yunis Mohammed(ph) is a 31-year-old university worker.
Mr. YUNIS MOHAMMED (University Worker): (Through Translator) I saw that the suicide man and I saw his body, and I didn't see any his head or his legs.
(Soundbite of water hose; crowd noise)
LYDEN: Iraqi firemen tried to erase the carnage as quickly as possible, hosing down the area, flooding the street with dark pools of bloody water. The wounded and the bodies of those killed were packed in ambulances and spirited away. Friends and relatives who rushed to the scene had to be restrained, and they wept.
(Soundbite of crowd noise; man weeping)
LYDEN: This was not the scene Iraq's Kurdish population anticipated this week. The Kurdish north has seen far less violence than the rest of Iraq, and Kurds, who were once persecuted under Saddam Hussein, now play a large role in the country's new government, sworn in yesterday in Baghdad. But many now worry their new role in Iraq may mean attacks like this happen more frequently. Marwan Hassan(ph), a 38-year-old whose shirt was bloodstained from trying to help with the wounded, said the bombing was God's will and that he was worried about the security situation.
Mr. MARWAN HASSAN: (Through Translator) The security situation in Erbil is very strong, but even that, there are terrorist people that try more and more and more to go inside and make a problem.
LYDEN: Indeed, hours after the attack, an Iraqi militant group claimed responsibility. A statement by Ansar al-Sunna said today's attack was revenge on the Kurds for allying themselves with United States forces. The group also has abducted and killed foreign workers and claimed responsibility for a pair of suicide attacks in Erbil in February of 2004.
Today, senior Kurdish officials visited the scene of the bombing without issuing a statement. Erbil radio said all the local hospitals were full, and asked volunteers to come forward and give blood. Jackie Lyden, NPR News.
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