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Iraqi officials say death toll in Baghdad blasts targeting police has jumped to 23
BAGHDAD (AP) ' Iraqi officials say the death toll in a string of blasts targeting police in Baghdad has jumped to 23.
Two police officials say 13 people were killed in western Baghdad when a suicide bomber rammed a police station.
In the northern Shiite neighborhood of Hurriyah, nine people died when a suicide bomber also targeted a police station. And in western Baghdad, a parked car bomb targeting a police patrol exploded and killed one civilian.
Medical officials confirmed the death toll. All the officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the media.
THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP's earlier story is below.
BAGHDAD (AP) ' A slew of bombings targeting Iraqi police in Baghdad on Wednesday morning killed 12 people and wounded more than 20, Iraqi officials said.
The blasts were aimed at the police, generally considered to be the weakest section of the country's security forces, and emphasized that despite Iraq's security gains, longterm stability in the country is still elusive.
U.S. forces are scheduled to leave Iraq by the end of this year, and Wednesday's multi-pronged attack is likely to add to concerns about whether the Iraqi security forces are able to effectively secure the city.
In the mainly Shiite neighborhood of Hurriyah, a suicide car bomber targeted a police station and killed six people, said two Baghdad police officials. Ten people were also wounded in that blast.
In the southern Karradah neighborhood, three people were killed and six wounded by another suicide car bomb attack on a police station, the officials said. Smoke could be seen rising from the blast site as ambulances rushed to the scene, their sirens wailing. Iraqi army helicopters circled over head.
Officials said the suicide bombers both exploded their vehicles at the outer entrance leading into the police stations.
"The scene was horrific," said Salim Ghadban, who was having breakfast near the Karradah police station when he heard a loud explosion.
"We saw terrified people, some injured, running in our direction, and we rushed to the attacked police station to see burned bodies and charred cars. We helped cover the burnt bodies until the ambulances arrived."
The attack in Hurriyah was especially remarkable because the neighborhood is a stronghold of Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr. It is almost entirely surrounded by blast walls, and access is tightly restricted through just a four entrances manned by the Iraqi army.
A roadside bomb exploded near a police patrol in western Baghdad, killing two policemen and wounding another five, said police officials.
A parked car bomb exploded in western Baghdad targeting a police patrol but killed one civilian and injured five people. Three people were also injured by a roadside bomb hitting a police patrol in western Baghdad.
A hospital official confirmed the causalities.
The officials all spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the media.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility but such attacks are usually the work of Sunni militant groups such as al-Qaida in Iraq. They often target security forces in their attempt to destabilize the country and sow havoc.
The military spokesman for Baghdad, Qassim al-Moussawi blamed al-Qaida for the attacks and said they were an attempt to show people that the militants are still active.
"Every three months or so, al-Qaida mobilizes all its resources to launch such attacks in one day to say that al-Qaida is still able to attack and threaten security posts," he said.
The police are an especially vulnerable target among Iraq's security forces because they usually do not have the heavy weapons or equipment that the Iraqi army has. The military has received the bulk of the U.S. training assistance since the war began.
Under a 2008 security pact, all U.S. forces are to leave the country by the end of this year, although a massive American diplomatic force will remain.
U.S. and Iraqi officials have been discussing whether to have a longterm but small U.S. military presence in the country after December in order to train Iraqi security forces. But they have been unable to agree on whether to give the troops the legal protections that the American government requires, and time is rapidly running out for any agreement to take place.
"We urge the security forces to be on high alert ahead of the U.S. withdrawal. Security stability in Iraq seems to be far away because we are still facing challenges," said al-Moussawi.
Associated Press writer Qassim Abdul-Zahra contributed to this report.