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Since 1st March, 1999
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50 killed as blast rips Iraqi police station

Iskandariya (Iraq), Feb. 10 (Reuters): A massive car bomb ripped through a police station south of Baghdad today, killing about 50 people, in the latest deadly attack on Iraqis seen as collaborators with US occupation forces.

The attack came after US officials said an Islamic militant with links to Osama bin Laden’s al Qaida network was plotting to ignite a civil war in Iraq to undermine efforts to hand over power to Iraqis. “There are around 50 martyrs, 30 of whom have been identified, and dozens wounded,” Dr Tahsin Ahmad said at the hospital in Iskandariya, 40 km south of Baghdad.

The hospital’s director, Razak Jannabi, said: “Thirty dead have been brought here, I believe that number is rising. I believe it’s at 49.” A Reuters reporter said he had counted at least 20 bodies outside the building. Inside the hospital, staff frantically tried to mop up pools of blood with soap and water.

“It was a car (bomb) that was parked outside the station,” policeman Sadeq Khodeir said. “It brought down part of the building and the court house.”

The provincial governor said all of the dead were locals, including some policemen. “No Muslim could have done this. It appears the amount of explosives used was huge because it killed so many and devastated the buildings,” said Imad Lifty.

US forces cordoned off roads leading to the blast site.

Earlier today, a suicide bomber blew himself up outside the house of Amer Suleiman, chief of the al-Duleimi tribe in the area and head of the local US-appointed authority in the restive town of Ramadi, 110 km west of the capital, wounding four bodyguards.

The attacks followed a pattern of targeting Iraqis seen as collaborators with the US occupation. Twin suicide bombings in northern Iraq against two Kurdish parties allied with the US killed more than 100 people on February 1. Iraqi police officials say 300 policemen have been killed as a result of the insurgency. The force was set up by the US-led authorities in Iraq, who provided training, equipment and have led joint patrols.

Al Qaida plot

US troops said yesterday they had seized a computer disc containing a letter from Abu Musab Zarqawi, who Washington links to Ansar al-Islam, outlining plans to destabilise Iraq.

The US says the group, which operates in northern Iraq, is affiliated to al Qaida. Saudi sources said last year that Iran was holding Zarqawi along with several al Qaida members.

“There is clearly a plan on the part of outsiders to come into this country and spark civil war, breed sectarian violence and try to expose fissures in the society,” said Brigadier-General Mark Kimmitt, the top US military spokesman in Iraq.

Dan Senor, chief spokesman for Iraq’s US governor Paul Bremer, said the 17-page letter proposed attacks on shrines and leaders of Iraq’s Shia majority, whom Arab Sunnis and Kurds fear could dominate a future government.

In Washington, secretary of state Colin Powell said the letter showed al Qaida was under pressure but had not given up. “With respect to the letter itself, it’s very revealing. They describe the weaknesses they have in their efforts to undercut the coalition’s effort,” Powell said.

US forces in Iraq have long suspected al Qaida was playing a role in the insurgency, particularly attacks on civilian targets in Iraq. In New York, UN secretary-general Kofi Annan spoke to UN security council members about the electoral team he sent to Baghdad on Saturday to see whether elections could be held soon, as demanded by Shias.

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