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Saturday, January 31

Payday bombing' kills nine at Iraqi police station

By Robert Hodierne | Army Times

MOSUL, Iraq - A suicide bomber drove up to a civilian police station crowded with officers collecting their monthly pay and detonated an explosion that killed nine and wounded 60, according to American military police. No Americans were among the dead or wounded, according to the M.P.s.

The payday bombing was the latest in an escalating series of attacks against the civilian police and was by far the deadliest. It was also the first suicide bombing in Mosul during the American occupation.

The explosion, just before 10 a.m. local time, dug a hole eight feet in diameter and three feet deep. It destroyed half a dozen cars and trucks parked nearby, toppled five 10-foot tall concrete barriers and set fire to the blue and white police station located on a busy, six-lane highway near Mosul University.

American explosives experts at the scene said they thought the bomb was made from 1,000 to 1,500 pounds of ammonium nitrate - commonly used in fertilizer - and fuel oil.

Maj. Gen. David Petraeus, who commands the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), the unit responsible for the four-province region of northern Iraq that includes Mosul, arrived at the police station minutes after the explosion. He said of those responsible, ``They out there and they're going to keep coming. You can't put a stake through this kind of thing. You hope to disrupt them before they get organized.''

Attacks on American forces have been slackening in recent weeks, although three bombs apparently intended to hit Americans were discovered Saturday before they could bet set off. In addition, there was one drive-by shooting. No Americans were hurt in any of those incidents, military officials said.

During the last week of December and the first week of January, insurgents attacked civilian police stations three and four times. In the second week in January, the number of attacks rose to eight, then 17 the week after that. The M.P.s hadn't totaled the attacks during the last week that climaxed with the suicide bombing. Prior to Saturday's blast, three Iraqi policemen had been killed in January. No American troops were killed by enemy action in Mosul during the same period.

Col. Joe Anderson commands the 2nd Brigade of the 101st and has responsibility for the city of Mosul. The 101st is in the process of pulling out of town and handing over control to another, smaller American unit, the 3rd Bridgade of the 2nd Infantry Division. One of the reasons attacks against Americans have been declining, Anderson said, is there are fewer American posts these days to attack.

But, he said, ``The bottom line with the cops is, as much as they have been equipped and trained, they are still presenting a soft target in front of those police stations. They're easier to attack than we are.''

He said he also believed the insurgents target police and other Iraqi civilians who cooperate with American and coalition forces to show them they ``are at risk.''

He said that hasn't scared off police recruits.

``We still have more people that want to be cops than we can train,'' he said.

That is crucial to the American strategy in Iraq. The hope is to build stronger Iraqi police and civil defense forces so that the size of the American forces can be reduced. By the end of next week, the number of Americans in the Mosul region will have dropped from 23,000 to 8,000, according to military officials.