An unknown assailant planted the bomb in a vehicle parked in a garage next to the police building. Iraqi police Brigadier Saeed Muneim told reporters the attack was most likely aimed at Hassan Ali, Baghdad’s police chief, whose office was located next to the garage.
Although the blast killed one police officer and wounded 15 others, Ali was not in his office when the bomb went off at approximately 11:15 a.m. local time (2:15 a.m. EDT).
“We are risking our lives every day,” a police officer at the scene told Reuters. “People want to kill us because they think we work for the Americans, but all we want to do is bring security in Iraq.”
Guerilla fighters have targeted Iraqi police in the past, attacking individual patrolmen and groups of police. The deadliest incident occurred in July when seven new officers were killed by a roadside bomb that detonated as they passed.
Tuesday’s explosion was also the fourth major bombing in the last month. On Friday, a major explosion tore through a holy Shiite shrine in Najaf, killing more than 125 people, including a leading Shiite cleric who had opposed the Saddam Hussein regime. Earlier attacks had targeted the United Nations headquarters, in which the top U.N. envoy died, and the Jordanian embassy.
More than 100,000 mourners poured into Najaf on Tuesday to bury the cleric, Mohammed Bakr al-Hakim. The crowd expressed anger at the attack and vowed revenge. Hundreds also chanted anti-American slogans as they marched through the streets of the city.
U.S. and coalition officials have blamed remnants of Saddam Hussein’s regime and foreign fighters for the attacks. On Monday, the Arab-language satellite channel al-Jazeera broadcast a tape, reportedly from Saddam, denying responsibility for the Najaf attack.
“Many of you may have heard the snakes hissing, the servants of the invaders, occupiers, infidels, and how they have managed to accuse the followers of Saddam Hussein of responsibility for the attack on al-Hakim without any evidence,” said the tape. “They rushed to accuse before investigating.”
Although the tape denied responsibility for the Najaf bombing, it made no mention of the earlier explosions.
As security concerns continued to plague Iraqis, violence directed at U.S. forces in the country continued to claim casualties. On Monday, two soldiers from the 220th Military Police Brigade were killed and one wounded when their vehicle struck a roadside bomb along a main supply route south of Baghdad.
The deaths bring to 67 the number of U.S. soldiers killed in action since President Bush announced an end to major combat operations on May 1.