BAGHDAD (AFP) – A suicide car bomber has blown himself up next to a police training centre in southeast Iraq, causing dozens of casualties, a day after a rocky session in the trial of Saddam Hussein.
One policeman was killed and 39 others wounded, including four senior officers, in the city of Nasiriyah when the bomber struck during a training session on Monday, police said.
“It was an open area where the policemen were training when a suicide car bomber blew up a car,” said a police officer from Nasiriyah, 375 kilometers (225 miles) from Baghdad.
He said the incident occurred at around 0845 am (0545 GMT).
Iraqi security forces have been prime targets of insurgents attempting to destabilise the country since the March 2003 US-led invasion.
A wave of fresh violence has been unleashed by insurgents in the past two days with dozens killed and scores of others wounded, as rebels have struck with car bombs near churches and roadside bombs across the country.
One roadside blast wounded two US television journalists near the town of Taji, north of Baghdad, on Sunday.
Sunday’s attacks near churches in Baghdad and in the northern city of Kirkuk killed three people and wounded more than a dozen Iraqis. The attacks triggered fears of sectarian tension.
The UN representative in Iraq, Ashraf Qazi, said the bombings outside the churches were “a reprehensible act that can only exacerbate sectarian violence”.
He called upon Iraqi authorities to preserve the safety of all worshippers and the sanctity of places of worship.
In central Iraq, Bob Woodruff, news anchor with the US television network ABC, and his cameraman Doug Vogt were seriously wounded when the vehicle they were in hit a roadside bomb.
The two were embedded with the US army, but riding in an Iraqi security forces armored vehicle ahead of an eight-vehicle convoy at the time of the attack, ABC reported.
They were flown Monday to a US military medical facility in Landstuhl, Germany, after undergoing surgery in Iraq, ABC News president David Westin said.
The latest rebel attacks came amid chaos in the trial of Saddam on Sunday, with the deposed dictator walking out and his half-brother Barzan al-Tikriti being ejected from the court on the judge’s order.
The new Kurdish judge Rauf Rasheed Abdel Rahman left his authoritarian mark on his first day by ejecting Barzan from the court and also taking on Saddam in a heated verbal exchange.
“I want to leave the court,” Saddam, red-faced with anger, told the judge during their argument, to which the judge replied that he could leave the court and then ordered the former dictator out.
“I led you for 35 years and you order me out of the court,” retorted Saddam.
“I am the judge, you are the defendant. You have to obey the rules,” said the judge.
Saddam said “this is an American court, not an Iraqi court.”
The defence lawyers also walked out and have now threatened to boycott the trial completely.
“We are not going to appear in the next session for a number of reasons, the first is that the court was so aggressive against our clients and the lawyers,” Najib al-Nuami, one of Saddam’s lawyers and a former Qatari minister of justice, told AFP.
Meanwhile, Iraq’s health minister headed to Kurdistan on Monday amidst growing concern over the possibility of the lethal form of avian flu spilling across the border from nearby infected Turkey.
Local authorities have quarantined a remote area of the Kurdish autonomous region right next to the Turkish border where 12 people have fallen ill with flu-like symptoms.
Earlier this month two people died in the city of Sulaimaniyah, though initial tests dismissed fears that the two were infected by the deadly H5N1 strain of the virus.