Suicide bomber strikes Iraqi oil hub

Suicide bomber strikes Iraqi oil hub

(AP) - A suicide bomber driving an explosives-laden truck filled with sand struck a police station north of Baghdad on Saturday, the latest in a week of bombings that have killed nearly 80 people.

The truck was allowed through the main gate of the complex in Beiji , the site of Iraq's largest refinery, after the driver told the guards he was delivering the sand to a construction site inside. The driver detonated his payload when two policemen approached him as he tried to enter a parking lot, police said.

The blast, which damaged nearby homes and sent shards of glass flying through the air, killed eight people and wounded 16, police said. It occurred in a neighborhood that is home to many refinery workers and engineers, but apparently was targeting the station.

Violence has been unrelenting in northern Iraq as insurgents fight back against a U.S.-Iraqi security crackdown and a groundswell of public opinion that has turned Sunni tribal leaders against the terror network.

U.S. troops killed 12 suspected al- Qaida in Iraq militants and detained 13 in a series of raids in central and northern Iraq, including one that ended with an airstrike on a palm grove where gunmen had taken up position outside Youssifiyah , 12 miles south of Baghdad, the U.S. military said.

The raids came days after an al- Qaida front group, the Islamic State of Iraq, posted a message on an extremist Web site announcing a new campaign against members of so-called awakening groups. Those groups have turned against the extremists and been credited by the U.S. with helping reduce violence nationwide.

Saturday's attack in Beiji capped a deadly week in which nearly 80 people were killed and dozens wounded in roadside bombs, car bombs and suicide attacks, most targeting Iraqi security forces or anti-al- Qaida groups north of Baghdad.

"This attack will not deter us and the bombings will not frighten us because we are serving our country and protecting out citizens," said Col. Hazim Jamil of the Beiji police force.

Police and witnesses said the bomber made it through the main gate by hiding his explosives under sand. He was stopped when he tried to drive his truck into a parking lot behind the police station. Guards had become suspicious that he was trying to enter an area that was not under construction.

"The truck exploded when the two policeman approached to try to ask the driver questions. After the explosion, we rushed to hide behind trees in order to avoid flying pieces of debris," said Qadouri Mohammed, who was collecting trash near the site of the blast.

A police official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he wasn't authorized to release the information, said the seven killed included five policemen and two civilians.

Beiji , 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.

Violence is generally down throughout Iraq, largely due to a U.S. troop buildup, the rise of the anti-al- Qaida 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 loss of many former sanctuaries, al- Qaida groups are believed to be moving to more remote regions.

In the southeastern city of Kut , 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.

The U.S. military on Saturday raised the death toll of a suicide car bombing the day before at a checkpoint about 10 miles outside of Muqdadiyah , saying those killed included six Iraqi soldiers and five members of a local anti- Qaida group.

Also Friday, a woman detonated explosives in front of the building housing the Muqdadiyah office of the 1920 Revolution Brigade, a Sunni insurgent group whose members in the area switched sides this year and joined the fight against al- Qaida . At least 12 people were killed in that attack, the U.S. military said, although Iraqi police put the death toll at 15.

The deadliest attack this week was a parked car bombing in the predominantly Shiite neighborhood of Karradah in Baghdad, which killed at least 18 people on Wednesday.

Also struck was Ramadi , with at least three policemen killed by a suicide car bomber.

Ramadi , 70 miles west of Baghdad, is the capital of Anbar province, the birthplace of the so-called awakening movement that has seen mainly Sunnis join forces with the U.S. against al- Qaida .

The head of the city council in Fallujah , Hamid Ahmed al- Hashim , announced it decided to ban the opening of any awakening offices there, saying the area was secured and it feared insurgent infiltration of the organizations as well as tribal infighting.

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