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Iraq: Baghdad Attacks Underscore Security Worries

Car bomb attacks have increased sharply in the last several days (file photo) Attacks on 1 May against police and civilians in Baghdad have underscored the dire security situation in Iraq on the third day of violence since a new government was formed. In one attack, insurgents shot dead five Iraqi policemen at their Baghdad checkpoint. Later, at least four civilians were killed and five injured when a car bomb targeting a U.S. military convoy exploded near a technical college in Baghdad.

Prague, 1 May 2005 (RFE/RL) -- In the three days since Iraq announced the formation of a government, insurgents have carried out a furious sequence of attacks -- including more than 15 car bomb blasts in Baghdad that have killed dozens.

Iraqi officials say militants have capitalized on three months of political haggling about the government's formation to step up their attacks. Correspondents in the Iraqi capital say the campaign has erased some of the optimism created by the 30 January elections.

The political squabbling and renewed violence also appear to have fuelled sectarian tensions. Politicians are struggling to balance the interests of Shi'ites and Kurds, who are the new powers, and the Sunnis who dominated Iraq under the rule of Saddam Hussein.
"We were on the roof and I was wounded in my leg while my colleague was shot dead and he fell from the roof."

The killings continued today when five Iraqi policemen at a Baghdad checkpoint were shot dead by insurgents with assault rifles. Thamer Abed is a Baghdad police officer who survived that attack.

"We were in duty at the checkpoint when we were attacked by masked gunmen," he said. "They opened fire on us and we returned fire. Then they rounded us and fired on us from behind and from all the sides. Two police officers who were in the street were killed. They were shot in the head. Two others were also shot dead there. We were on the roof and I was wounded in my leg while my colleague was shot dead and he fell from the roof."

Today's shooting attack occurred near a military college in Baghdad that serves as a U.S. military camp. Correspondents say it has reinforced concerns in the Iraqi capital -- exactly two years since U.S. President George W. Bush declared major combat operations over -- that U.S.-trained Iraqi forces have a long way to go before they can take over security from American soldiers.

Within hours of the shooting attack, at least four municipal workers in Baghdad were killed when a car bomb targetting a U.S. military convoy exploded. U.S. officials offered no immediate comment on whether any U.S. troops were injured.

Sarmad Ibrahim is a policeman who witnessed the car bomb attack near a technical college in Baghdad. "The U.S. soldiers chased this car, which exploded when it got near the college," he said. "The U.S. soldiers left five minutes later. Yes, they thought the car was suspicious. [Several] of those poor workers from the municipality were killed, and seven or eight of them were wounded."

While most of the violence in the past three days has been focused in Baghdad and nearby areas, there are still attacks in some of the country's other traditional hotspots.

U.S. military officials say guerrillas fired at least seven rockets into the city of Al-Fallujah yesterday, killing three Iraqi civilians and wounding another.