msnbc.com news services
updated 9/15/2004 5:37:06 AM ET 2004-09-15T09:37:06

A car bomb exploded in a town south of Baghdad on Wednesday, killing two people and injuring 10, said Col. Adnan Abdul-Rahman, an Interior Ministry official. The bombing came a day after 59 people were killed in two separate attacks in Iraq.

The car, which exploded at about 9:00 a.m., was targeting a National Guard checkpoint in Suwayrah, about 40 miles south of Baghdad, Abdul-Rahman said. One national guardsman was among the dead, he said.

No further details were immediately available.

On Tuesday, a car bomb exploded near a police station in Baghdad as dozens of Iraqis were applying to join the force, killing at least 47 people and wounding 114, officials said.

In a separate attack on Iraq's police force, gunmen in two cars opened fire Tuesday on a van carrying policemen in Baqouba, killing 11 officers and a civilian, police and hospital officials said.

And in Ramadi, 10 Iraqis died in fighting Tuesday between U.S. forces and insurgents, Iraq's health ministry said. Witnesses said insurgents had opened fire on U.S. tanks that were trying to enter the town from the west. U.S. forces returned fire, killing a number of Iraqis and destroying some shops, they said.

The U.S. military did not immediately have any information on the fighting.

Al-Zarqawi group reportedly claims responsibility
The Baghdad and Baquoba attacks marked the latest attempts by insurgents to disrupt U.S.-backed efforts to build a strong Iraqi police force capable of taking over security in many towns and cities ahead of nationwide elections slated for January.

In statements on an Islamic Web site, a group linked to Abu Musab al-Zarqawi claimed responsibility for both attacks. The United States has offered a $25 million reward for the capture of al-Zarqawi, its top militant target in Iraq.

Video: Meantime, aiming to thwart reconstruction, saboteurs blew up a junction where multiple oil pipelines cross the Tigris River in northern Iraq on Tuesday, setting off a chain reaction in power generation systems that left Iraq without power, officials said.

Also, two American soldiers were killed and three others wounded when they came under attack Monday from an improvised explosive device and small arms fire in Baghdad, the military said Tuesday.

Scene of recent clashes
In Baghdad, an Interior Ministry official said on condition of anonymity that a suicide bomber detonated an explosives-packed sedan next to a cafe by the police station where many would-be recruits had gone to escape the summer heat.

WOMAN CRIES AT BOMBING SITE
Khalid Mohammed  /  AP
An unidentified woman cries after identifying a pair of shoes lying at the site of a massive explosion outside a police station in Baghdad on Tuesday as those of her son.
The blast left a gaping 10-foot crater outside the station at the end of Haifa street, a main Baghdad thoroughfare that has been the scene recently of fierce clashes. Dozens of cars parked nearby were destroyed and shops and buildings were damaged.

Paramedics and residents picked up body parts scattered across the street and put them into boxes. Anguished men lifted charred bodies and lay them gently on stretchers.

The attack on police in Baqouba took place when the policemen were returning to their station after they were told that a trip to a training camp had been postponed, said a police officer on condition of anonymity.

Eleven policemen were killed as well as the civilian driver, said Qaisar Hamid of Baqouba General Hospital.

Two others were wounded, he said.

Angry crowds denounce Iraqi government
In Baghdad, angry crowds near the site of the blast denounced U.S. forces and interim Iraqi Prime Minister Ayad Allawi’s government for failing to protect police recruiting centers.

“Such places were targeted before,” said Ali Abul-Amir, who was among those trying to join the force but had gone around the corner to buy a drink when the explosion went off. “I blame Ayad Allawi’s government for what happened because they did not take the necessary security measures.”

Iraqi police forces have repeatedly been targeted by insurgents who see them as “collaborators” with U.S. forces. Militants are bent on thwarting U.S.-backed efforts to build a strong Iraqi police force capable of securing Iraqi cities ahead of nationwide January elections.

A suicide attacker detonated a car bomb outside the police academy in the northern Iraqi city of Kirkuk earlier this month as hundreds of trainees and civilians were leaving for the day, killing at least 20 people and wounding 36.

Sabotuers blow up oil pipeline junction
Elsewhere, firefighters struggled to put out an oil blaze after an attack near Beiji, 155 miles north of Baghdad. U.S. military officials surveying the blast estimated it could take up to three days to put out the fire.

Crude oil cascaded down the hillside into the river. Fire burned atop the water, fueled by the gushing oil.

Beiji is the point where several oil pipelines converge, said Lt. Col. Lee Morrison of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. "Beiji is the chokepoint," he said. "It's so easy to hit."

The 3 a.m. attack came soon after engineers had completed a two-month project to install two critical valves that had been damaged in an earlier blast.

Morrison said that U.S. soldiers had just dropped off barriers to guard the lines two days ago, but that Iraqi authorities had not yet erected them.

Iraqi oil officials have been struggling to guard the country's vast oil infrastructure, deploying thousands of oil security officers. Insurgents, however, have largely acted with impunity — and often inside knowledge.

"They already know it's a critical point because they've blown it up before," said Morrison. "They obviously know the system. But it's not rocket science."

Militants waging a 16-month insurgency have attacked oil pipelines as part of a campaign to destabilize Allawi's interim government and drive coalition forces from the country.

Allawi told the Arabic-language satellite channel Al-Arabiya on Monday that sabotage of oil pipelines had already cost the country about $2 billion in losses in all.

Siege in north lifted
In northern Iraq, U.S. and Iraqi forces allowed civilians to return to Tal Afar on Tuesday, signaling an end to a siege that killed dozens of people and angered U.S. ally Turkey.

The lifting of the siege came a day after Turkish Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul warned American officials that Ankara would stop cooperating in Iraq if U.S. forces continued to harm the Turkish minority in the country’s north. Tal Afar is a center for Iraq’s ethnic Turkmen.

Civilian cars crossed the checkpoint on Tal Afar’s outskirts Tuesday and troops searched others wishing to return. Police vans patrolled the streets as people cautiously moved back into town.

No U.S. troops were visible in Tal Afar on Tuesday, and al-Barhawy said American forces had left Iraqis in charge of security.

American troops and Iraqi forces overran Tal Afar — one of several Iraqi cities they say had fallen into the hands of insurgents — on Sunday after a nearly two-week siege that forced scores of residents to flee and left a trail of devastated buildings and rubble.

U.S. commanders said they moved in on Tal Afar at the behest of regional officials who lost control of the city. American intelligence believed Tal Afar had become a haven for militants smuggling men and arms from across the Syrian border.

Turkmen officials there said 58 people were killed during a 12-day assault by U.S. and Iraqi government forces. The Turkmen are an ethnic Turkish minority in Iraq but make up the majority of Tal Afar’s population.

The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.

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