BAGHDAD (AP) – A suicide truck bomber attacked a police station in one of Iraq’s major oil hubs on Saturday, killing at least seven people and injuring 13 in a neighborhood home to many refinery workers and engineers, police said.
Elsewhere, 12 suspected al-Qaeda in Iraq militants were killed and 13 detained in American raids, including one that ended with an airstrike on a palm grove where gunmen had taken up position, the U.S. military said.
The attack in Beiji was at least the third deadly suicide attack in 24 hours in Iraq and came a day after a key oil pipeline in the northern city was struck by an insurgent bomb.
The bomber on Saturday approached the police station in an explosives-laden truck about five kilometers (three miles) north of the city center, a police official said, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to release details of the attack.
The official said five policemen and two civilians were killed in the blast, which damaged nearby homes and sent shards of glass flying through the air. “The windows of my house shattered and three of my family members were injured,” said Jassim Salih, who lives nearby.
Another witness, Falih Salim, said he rushed toward the area after hearing the explosion and saw the bodies of two burned guards.
“The scene was so horrible that I ran away.” Salim said.
Beiji, 250 kilometers (155 miles) north of Baghdad, houses northern Iraq’s largest oil refinery, and serves as a key transfer point for crude oil being exported out of Iraq.
Attacks on the Kirkuk-Beiji pipeline cluster have been infrequent in recent months, with some 300 U.S. soldiers and more than 2,000 Iraqi troops guarding the zone.
Violence is generally down throughout Iraq, largely due to the influx of U.S. troops that began last February, the rise of the anti-al-Qaeda groups and a freeze on activities by the Mahdi Army, ordered by the militia’s leader, the radical cleric Muqtada al-Sadr.
But with the lost of many former sanctuaries, al-Qaeda groups are believed to be moving to more remote regions.
In one U.S. operation Saturday outside Youssifiyah, 20 kilometers (12 miles) south of Baghdad, gunmen left a building believed to be an al-Qaeda hideout as American forces approached, then went into a nearby palm grove, according to the U.S. statement.
Ten suspected militants were killed in the ensuing gunfight and airstrike, the U.S. said. Afterward, troops found machine guns, rocket propelled grenades and sandbags filled with explosives. Two men were detained, the statement said.
In a second raid outside Jalula, 125 kilometers (80 miles) northeast of Baghdad, U.S. forces moving against a suspected al-Qaeda in Iraq member believed to be linked to senior members of the group killed one suspect and discovered an ammunition cache, the military statement said.
Two other raids further north, one in Mosul and one in Samarra, left one suspected militant dead and 11 detained, the military said.
In the southeastern city of Kut, 160 kilometers (100 miles) from Baghdad, a rocket landed on the home of a senior member of the local Sadrist bloc of Shiite politicians, killing him, his wife and their two children, police said.