Explosions in Iraq during celebrations of National Police Day: 29 killed

Two suicide bombers disguised as police infiltrated the heavily fortified Interior Ministry compound in Baghdad and blew themselves up during celebrations of National Police Day, killing 29 Iraqis. The attackers died Monday before getting near the U.S. ambassador and senior Iraqi officials at the festivities, but the blasts capped a particularly deadly week for American and Iraqi forces.

Iraqi police also were searching for an American journalist who was kidnapped Saturday by gunmen who ambushed her car and killed her translator in Baghdad. Jill Carroll, a 28-year-old freelancer for The Christian Science Monitor, was seized in Baghdad's predominantly Sunni Arab al-Adel neighborhood. Police said she went there to see a Sunni Arab politician.

The escalating violence after the Dec. 15 parliamentary elections, at least 498 Iraqis and 54 U.S. forces have been killed, came as Iraq's electoral commission again delayed releasing the results of the vote.

An Internet site known for publishing extremist material from al-Qaida in Iraq leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi carried a claim of responsibility for Monday's suicide attack, saying it was in revenge for the torture of Sunni Arab prisoners at two detention facilities run by the Shiite-led Interior Ministry. "The lions of al-Qaida in Iraq were able to conduct a new raid on the Interior Ministry, taking revenge for Allah's religion and the Sunnis, who are being tortured in the ministry's cellars," the statement said.

The claim, which could not be independently verified, referred to reports that more than 100 abused prisoners were recently found in the jails _ bolstering complaints by Sunni Arabs about the treatment of detainees by Interior Ministry forces.

Another purported al-Zarqawi statement rebuked Sunni Arabs for participating in the parliamentary elections, saying they had "thrown a rope" to save U.S. policy. Meanwhile, the U.S. military said eight U.S. troops and four American civilians died aboard a U.S. Army Black Hawk helicopter that crashed Saturday in northern Iraq. The military initially said only that eight passengers and four crew were aboard. Sunni Arabs also expressed anger over a raid Sunday by U.S. troops on the Umm al-Qura mosque, Baghdad headquarters of the Association of Muslim Scholars, a Sunni clerical group that is believed to have ties to some insurgent groups.

The mosque is in the al-Adel neighborhood, one of Baghdad's roughest and the same area where the American journalist was kidnapped. A U.S. military official, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the situation, said the raid was a necessary immediate response to the kidnapping based on a tip provided by an Iraqi citizen. The military said Sunday that six people were detained. No other details were released.

"The violations of the occupation forces are continuing and they are endless. The raid on the Um al-Qura mosque is the most recent example," said Muthana Harith al-Dhari, a spokesman for the clerical group.

The suicide attack on the sprawling Interior Ministry compound came after a particularly deadly four-day period for Americans, with 28 killed since Thursday, including 24 troops. At least 498 Iraqis have been killed, including 355 civilians and 143 security forces, and 54 U.S. troops have died since the Dec. 15 elections. With the latest military deaths, at least 2,207 U.S. service members have died since the war started in 2003, according to an Associated Press count.

The bombs exploded in quick succession about 1,500 feet (450 meters) from the parade being watched by U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad, Interior Minister Bayan Jabr, Defense Minister Sadoun al-Dulaimi and hundreds of others.

None of the officials was hurt and the ceremony was not interrupted, said Lt. Col. Barry Johnson, a U.S. military spokesman. He said the explosions "had no impact on the ceremony and did not require anybody to take cover,” reports the AP. I.L.

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