Wed, Mar 16, 2005 - Page 7 News List

Abortive suicide bombing in Iraq kills child

AP AND AFP , BAGHDAD AND WASHINGTON

A suicide car bomb exploded in the Iraqi capital yesterday, killing one child and wounding at least four people, officials said. The bomber also died in the blast.

The explosion occurred near Bab al-Muadhim, a compound of several medical hospitals in northeastern Baghdad, police Colonel Muhanad Sadoun said.

The bomber was trying to hit a traffic police patrol in the area, but crashed into a tree by accident, Sadoun said. One child was killed and four people were wounded, including one policeman.

Meanwhile in Washington on Monday, US congressional investigators said that Iraqi security forces remain crippled by poor discipline, questionable loyalties and a rate of absenteeism possibly reaching tens of thousands,

But a senior US military official downplayed the importance of the findings by the Government Accountability Office (GAO), saying that high numbers of Iraqi police officers absent without leave was "a cultural thing."

US plans call for training and equipping 271,000 members of the Iraqi military and police by the middle of next year, enabling them to take over many of the combat duties performed today by US-led coalition forces.

Rear Admiral William Sullivan, deputy director of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told a House subcommittee the Pentagon was more than halfway to this goal, with about 142,000 Iraqis listed as trained and equipped for battle.

However, the GAO report presented at the hearing expressed serious doubts about the quality of Iraqi recruits and charged that "US government data do not provide reliable information on the status of Iraqi military and police forces."

Citing unnamed US defense officials, congressional investigators said Iraqi soldiers absent from their units without leave number "probably in the tens of thousands."

As for the national police, the Iraqi Interior Ministry simply does not know how many officers it has at any given moment because local police stations do not provide accurate reporting, the report stated.

Sullivan tried to convince the lawmakers that leaving one's unit without permission was part of time-honored Iraqi tradition.

"This has been a cultural thing with the Iraqis throughout time," he said. "Under the Saddam regime, when they went home ... maybe they stayed home and helped bring in a crop and didn't report back for duty when they were supposed to."

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