| An injured police recruit lies on a hospital bed in Ramadi, Iraq. (Reuters)
Baghdad, July 5 (Reuters): A blast killed seven US-backed Iraqi police recruits and wounded dozens more west of Baghdad today, police said, in the latest attack aimed at derailing Washington’s post-war plans for Iraq.
The US also faced angry accusations from Ankara that US forces had seized Turkish special forces troops in northern Iraq. The Turkish Prime Minister demanded the soldiers’ immediate release.
In Ramadi, scene of the deadly attack, a local police chief blamed supporters of Saddam Hussein. A recorded message broadcast yesterday purportedly from the ousted leader called on Iraqis to fight the US-led occupation of their country.
Pools of blood were still spread across the pavement near the police station in Ramadi, 100 km from Baghdad, hours after the explosion late this morning. The recruits had been just a few days from graduation, police said.
Most of the spate of recent attacks have targeted US troops, whose commanders blame isolated Saddam loyalists for the violence. But today’s blast underscored that Iraqis cooperating with the occupying powers also face danger. “Those who refuse to embrace the new Iraq are clearly panicking, they are turning their sights on Iraqis themselves,” said Paul Bremer, the head of Iraq’s US-led administration. “We will not be deterred from solidifying the freedom of the Iraqi people.”
Ramadi is in a mainly Sunni region north and west of Baghdad which was long a bastion of support for Saddam, himself a Sunni, and has seen frequent attacks on US forces. “Seven police recruits died and 20 are critically wounded,” Ramadi’s deputy chief of police, Abdullah Shihan, said. He blamed “mercenaries who aim at destabilising the security of this city”.
Some residents and police said the blast was a result of a roadside bomb while others said it was a rocket-propelled grenade or an artillery shell.
Jaadan Mohammad, Ramadi’s chief of police, said he believed Saddam loyalists were behind the attack. A US military spokesman in Baghdad said he had similar casualty figures to those given by Iraqi police.
Hostile fire has killed 26 American soldiers in Iraq since May 1, when US President George W. Bush declared major combat over in the war that ousted Saddam on April 9. Six British soldiers have been killed in the same period.
In Ankara, the Turkish government said 11 of its special forces based in northern Iraq had been detained by US forces yesterday afternoon. Turkey’s foreign minister spoke to US secretary of state Colin Powell about the case, officials said.
“We demanded their immediate release. They (US officials) said they are safe,” Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan said.
“It’s a totally ugly incident, it’s something that shouldn’t have happened.”
The soldiers were accused of planning an attack on the Kurdish governor in the city of Kirkuk, Turkish newspaper Hurriyet reported, but foreign minister Abdullah Gul dismissed that charge as “nonsense”.