Iraq suicide attack kills 17

Several victims police personnel; 80 people wounded in blast

Iraq suicide attack kills 17

The blast came a day after suicide bombers in vans and SUVs, helped in at least two cases by gunmen with silenced weapons, attacked three Baghdad hotels, killing at least 36 people.

An Interior Ministry official said many of those killed or injured in the Tuesday’s blast, in which the driver of a vehicle detonated explosives outside a forensics office, were police. About 80 people were wounded, the official said.
The bombings have shattered a seven-week lull in major assaults on government buildings and other supposedly secure targets, stoking tensions before the March 7 parliamentary polls.

They are a blow to Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, who is seeking a second term, and other incumbent politicians who hope voters will credit them for a sharp reduction in violence in Iraq over the past two years.
Major General Qassim al-Moussawi, spokesman for Baghdad security operations, put the death toll in Tuesday’s bombing at nine and said 68 had been wounded. Ambulances and firefighters rushed to the scene. The ministry building, which is surrounded by restaurants and shops, suffered major damage.

Moussawi, speaking before Tuesday’s attack, said officials had tightened security after the hotel blasts and had formed a committee to probe insurgents’ tactics and weaponry.
General Ray Odierno, commander of the US forces in Iraq, said al-Qaeda was now staging fewer attacks, but was focusing violence on undermining Iraqis’ faith in the state. Odierno said he expected more assaults before the parliamentary polls.
The US forces are increasingly taking a backseat to local troops as they prepare to halt to combat operations by the end of August and withdraw completely by 2011 end.
Iraqi security forces, rebuilt from scratch after the US administrators dissolved them in 2003, are seen as far more capable and disciplined than they once were, but they are still underequipped and undertrained in some areas.

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