Sun, Jul 06, 2003 - Page 1 News List

Blast kills at least seven Iraqi recruits

AP AND REUTERS , ANKARA AND RAMADI, IRAQ

A powerful explosion killed at least seven Iraqi police recruits and injured scores of others as they marched in a graduation ceremony yesterday in this tense western city, littering the street with blood, debris and shreds of clothing, US military officials and hospital personnel said.

The blast in Ramadi, 95km west of Baghdad, occurred as the police were marching from a local boys school where they had undergone a five-day US led training course to a nearby government building, said Mahmoud Hamad, a 23-year-old survivor with injuries to his right arm and leg, speaking from a gurney at nearby Ramadi General Hospital.

"Beside my injuries, I can't hear anymore," Hamad said.

The US Army's 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment, which oversees Ramadi, reported seven killed and some 40 injured, said Captain Michael Calvert. It appears none of the casualties were Americans, Calvert said.

"These were new recruits that had just finished joint training with us," said Calvert.

The bomb appears to have been detonated remotely, Calvert said. Experts from the Army's 761st Explosive Ordinance Detachment have already been sent to the scene to investigate and Calvert said the explosion was "not the result of any coalition actions or accidents."

Dr. Irfan Abdul Razzak put the toll of injured at 54 and said that 15 victims were undergoing emergency surgery.

The hospital's entire emergency ward was covered in blood, and victims filled the corridors waiting for treatment.

"The entire staff is coming to the hospital," Razzak said. Calls for blood donations went out over the loudspeakers of mosques in the town.

Outside, scores of relatives waited for news of their loved ones. Women in black chadoors beat their heads in anguish, many sobbing and screaming.

"The explosion was so loud it was heard all over the city," said Iraqi police Lieutenant Hamed Ali.

Hours after the blast, at least three US helicopters hovered over the scene, and military vehicles roamed the city.

Audio threat

The explosion came a day after the release of a new audiotape purportedly from Saddam that has threatened to energize anti-US forces and deepen the ongoing insurgency.

The tape was broadcast Friday on the Qatar-based television station al-Jazeera, and the speaker has characteristics similar to Saddam's style of speech, particularly his slow and drawn-out pronunciation. He also maintained Saddam's usual defiant, yet calm, demeanor.

"Oh brothers and sisters, I relay to you good news: Jihad cells and brigades have been formed," the speaker on the audiotape said, addressing the Iraqi people.

"There is resistance, and I know you are hearing about this. Not a day passes without them [suffering] losses in our great land thanks to our great mujahidin," the voice said. "The coming days will, God willing, be days of hardship and trouble for the infidel invaders."

Meanwhile, Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan said yesterday US troops had detained Turkish special forces in northern Iraq in what he called an "ugly incident" and demanded their immediate release.

A government source said at least 11 Turkish soldiers based in northern Iraq had been held by US forces on Friday afternoon and Ankara had made "forceful representations" to Washington.

"Our foreign minister has spoken with the US secretary of state. ... We demanded their immediate release. They said they are safe," Erdogan told reporters.

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