George W. Bush’s war on Iraq spawned three more suicide bomb attacks in the northern city of Mosul Sunday, killing more than two dozen people, many of them from the Iraqi security forces, as insurgents kept up pressure on the U.S.-backed government.
Within hours a suicide car bomber wrecked a police headquarters, an attack on an Iraqi army base killed up to 16 people and four police were killed when a bomber walked into Mosul’s General Hospital and blew himself up.
The third attack, on a police post inside the hospital, damaged the emergency ward where casualties had been brought from the previous incidents. Six policemen and nine civilians were wounded, police told a Reuters reporter at the scene.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the assault on the hospital but the earlier two bombings were claimed by al Qaeda’s Iraq wing, led by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.
The car bomber drove at a district police headquarters at Bab al-Toob in the city center, striking a rear wall to bring down a section of the old, two-storey building and devastate surrounding market stalls as people started the working day.
Five police and a civilian were killed and 14 people were wounded, hospital staff said. A U.S. military spokesman, Captain Mark Walter, said he had a report of 13 police and two civilians killed but these figures were being checked again.
He said up to 16 people were killed and seven wounded, mostly laborers, by another suicide bomber at an army post at Kasak, between Mosul and the violent city of Tal Afar, to the west. Locals reported heavy fighting at Tal Afar on Saturday.
Medical staff in Mosul said they had received five dead and 13 wounded from the Kasak base, many of them building workers, shortly before the bomb attack on the hospital itself.
Iraqi military officials said two suicide bombers appeared to have attacked the base, in line with the claim by al Qaeda. Walter said he understood only one bomber was involved.
U.S. troops have been fighting in Tal Afar for weeks. They say foreign fighters come into the city from nearby Syria.
Iraqi police and troops have become prime targets for the rebels. The deputy head of one of Baghdad’s main police departments, Colonel Riyad Abdelkarim, was assassinated on his way to work on Sunday, police in the capital said. Al Qaeda also claimed that attack in an Internet statement.
In the former rebel bastion of Falluja, where six U.S. troops were killed by a suicide car bomber on Thursday, a rocket attack on an Iraqi army patrol caused several casualties, witnesses said. No other details were available.
A U.S. soldier was killed and two were wounded when a roadside bomb exploded in Baghdad on Sunday, the military said.
On Saturday, 20 or so insurgents stormed a police post in the western city of Ramadi, killing eight officers, in the latest of a number of massed infantry-style attacks.
More than 100 rebels, employing tactics familiar to regular troops, besieged a Baghdad police station for hours last week.
Military experts say such armed units, led by Sunni Arab officers in Saddam Hussein’s old army, are no match for U.S. firepower but could pose a major threat to Shi’ite and Kurdish government troops once Washington withdraws its forces.
President Bush told Iraqi Prime Minister Ibrahim Jaafari in Washington on Friday there would be no timetable for withdrawal, despite pressure from opposition Democrats in the United States, who accuse the president of leading U.S. troops into a “quagmire” in Iraq.
Responding to a report in a British newspaper, quoting unnamed Iraqi sources, that U.S. officials this month met purported insurgents, U.S. and Iraqi officials repeated that there are continual consultations with tribal leaders, clerics and others who profess to represent elements of the insurgency.
But they were adamant that these are not negotiations and any talks have not involved the most violent groups such as Ansar al-Sunna, named by the Sunday Times, or Zarqawi’s group.
An Iraqi official said there had been talks for months, but only with nationalists fighting U.S. occupation: “Some people are exaggerating their ability to make contact with the insurgency in an effort to impress the Americans,” he said.
“We talk to Iraqis from many different groups about participating in the political process,” said U.S. embassy spokesman Adam Hobson.
A U.S. military official said meetings of the kind happened frequently and were far from extraordinary.