7 Iraqi Police recruits killed


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TheeBadOne
July 5, 2003, 09:55 PM
http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,91137,00.html (http://)

RAMADI, Iraq — An explosion rocked a graduation ceremony at a police academy in the western Iraqi city of Ramadi, Saturday, killing seven Iraqi recruits and wounding dozens of others, said U.S. officials.

The explosion, which left no Americans harmed, occurred while the graduating officers marched out of the U.S. facility after a five-day training period.

"The explosion was so loud it was heard all over the city," Iraqi police Lt. Hamed Ali said.

The cause of the blast was not immediately known.

Dr. Irfan Abdul Razzak said 54 people were injured, with 15 victims undergoing emergency surgery. The hospital's emergency ward was covered in blood, and victims filled the corridors waiting for treatment.

"The entire staff is coming to the hospital," Razzak said.

Calls for blood donations went out over the loudspeakers of mosques in the town.

Outside, scores of relatives waited for news of their loved ones. Women in black chadors beat their heads in anguish, many sobbing and screaming.

Hours later, at least three U.S. helicopters hovered over the scene of the blast while military vehicles roamed the city. U.S. soldiers at the blast site refused to comment, saying they were still investigating what happened. U.S. military officials in Baghdad said they had no information.

Ramadi, one of several Sunni-majority towns along the Euphrates River west of Baghdad, was a stronghold of support for Saddam Hussein, and has been the site of frequent attacks that have killed Americans as well as Iraqis. Insurgents frequently target police stations and people deemed to be cooperating with the U.S.-led occupation.

Still, many of the victims blamed America for the attack.

"The Americans have done it. Who else would do a thing like this?" said police instructor Abdel-Karim Hamadi,

The explosion came a day after the release of an audiotape purportedly from Saddam Hussein that has threatened to energize anti-U.S. forces and deepen the ongoing insurgency.

The tape was broadcast Friday on the Qatar-based television station Al-Jazeera. The speaker is said to have characteristics of Saddam's style of speech, particularly his slow and drawn-out pronunciation. He also maintained Saddam's usual defiant, yet calm, demeanor.

"Oh brothers and sisters, I relay to you good news: Jihad (holy war) cells and brigades have been formed," the speaker on the audiotape "There is resistance, and I know you are hearing about this. Not a day passes without them (suffering) losses in our great land thanks to our great mujahedeen. The coming days will, God willing, be days of hardship and trouble for the infidel invaders."

At the White House, spokesman Ari Fleischer said the CIA would assess the tape, and a U.S. intelligence official said the agency could not verify whether the voice belonged to the ousted Iraqi leader. The British government has said it also wants to examine the recording.

The speaker claims to have recorded the message June 14. But the timing of the tape's release was impeccable: broadcast worldwide Friday as Americans celebrated their Independence Day, and just a day after Washington announced a $25 million bounty on Saddam’s whereabouts. It was not clear how much the tape's message would resonate with ordinary Iraqis, who suffered under Saddam's brutal rule for decades. Most say they are overwhelmingly pleased at his ouster, though skeptical of U.S. and British motives in occupying their land.

But there are fears it might energize hardcore resistance fighters who have launched daily attacks on U.S. troops.

Saddam loyalists reportedly have been telling Iraqis in villages and markets that the leader is preparing a comeback and would punish those cooperating with the U.S. occupation.

U.S. officials insist the attacks on Americans are not centrally organized -- but say the mystery surrounding Saddam's fate has become a rallying point for anti-U.S. forces.

At least 27 U.S. troops have been killed in hostile fire since May 1, when President Bush declared an end to major combat in Iraq.

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