BAGHDAD, Iraq, AP – Suicide bombings struck Iraq on Sunday, killing at least 23 and wounding dozens more in three attacks on an army recruiting center, a police convoy and civilians, authorities said.
The attacks pushed the death count to over 1,500 people killed from violence since April 28, when Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari announced his Shiite- and Kurd-dominated government in a country under attack from an insurgency led by Iraq”s Sunni Arab minority.
In the deadliest blast Sunday, a man strapped with explosives blew himself up at a west Baghdad airfield now used as a military recruiting center, police said. Early casualty reports varied, with a hospital official saying at least 16 died while a Defense Ministry employee reported up to 25 killed.
The explosion occurred just before 9 a.m. at the recruiting center, which had been hit several times before by suicide attackers. About 400 would-be recruits jammed the gate Sunday before the bomber detonated himself, police Sgt. Ali Hussein said.
Yarmouk Hospital received 16 bodies and 39 people wounded from the attack, hospital director Ihsan al-Torfy said. He didn”t rule out that other victims might have been taken to other hospitals.
A Defense Ministry employee, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he is not authorized to speak with the media, reported 25 dead and 25 wounded. He said he was citing figures from the ministry”s operations room.
Separately, a suicide car bomber rammed into a police convoy near the northern city of Mosul, killing four policemen and wounding three, police said. The convoy was carrying Brig. Gen. Salim Salih Meshaal, who escaped injury.
In a third attack, a suicide car bomb exploded in Kirkuk, killing at least three civilians and wounding 16 more, police said. The attack occurred on a highway near a hospital and municipal building.
The bomber used a Mercedes Benz and the target appeared to be civilians because there were no military or police convoys nearby, authorities said.
Most of the casualties were people headed to Kirkuk General Hospital, police said. Three of the wounded were hospital employees.
The force of the blast toppled a few trees and shattered several windows in surrounding buildings.
Other violence overnight and into Sunday morning killed at least five others in Iraq, including a police colonel shot in Baghdad, two other policeman killed in the capital, a security official in Kirkuk and a civilian in Baghdad.
The head of Iraq”s karate association was kidnapped south of Baghdad, sports officials said Saturday. Ali Shakir was abducted Thursday in Latifiyah, about 20 miles south of Baghdad, said Ahmed Hashim, an Iraq Olympic committee official.
It was not clear why Shakir was taken. Hundreds of Iraqis have been abducted during the last two years — some by insurgents for political and sectarian reasons and some by criminal gangs for ransom.
Meanwhile, hundreds of U.S. Marines and Iraqi soldiers have launched Operation Scimitar against insurgent strongholds in a volatile Sunni province. The troops raided the village of Zaidan, 20 miles southeast of Fallujah. So far, 22 suspected insurgents had been detained, the military said Saturday.