A bomb blast turned a parade of graduating U.S.-trained Iraqi police cadets into a killing zone, leaving seven dead and scores injured and ratcheting postwar strife to new heights.
As mosque loudspeakers in the western city of Ramadi wailed for blood donations for the wounded, angry townsfolk said the victims had been told that collaborating with the Americans would come to no good. "That is what you get for working with the Americans," said one elderly Iraqi, shouting in the corridor of the emergency ward of a hospital where victims were brought. "They have all been warned before."
CBS News Reporter Lisa Barron in Baghdad says the attack certainly appeared intended to scare Iraqis who've been helping the U.S. cause. But CBS News correspondent Elizabeth Palmer, also in the Iraqi capital, says U.S. soldiers there predict the attack will instead erode support among Iraqis for the anti-American resistance.
The graduating police were marching from a boys school where they underwent five days of training to a nearby government building when a massive blast tore into them, said Mahmoud Hamad, a 23-year-old survivor. Hamad suffered wounds to his right arm and leg. Ramadi is 60 miles west of Baghdad.
The U.S. Army's 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment, which oversees Ramadi, reported seven people killed and 40 more wounded. None of the casualties were Americans, regiment spokesman Capt. Michael Calvert said. "These were new recruits that had just finished joint training with us," Calvert said.
Even as they step up their ambushes on U.S. troops, Iraqi insurgents have begun targeting the security services and civilian infrastructure U.S. forces are trying to rebuild, such as police forces, oil pipelines and Baghdad's electricity grid.
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.
In other developments:
the Iraqi National Museum in Baghdad on Saturday, in another sign of
Of the Ramadi attack, L. Paul Bremer, the top U.S. official in Iraq said, "Those who refuse to embrace the new Iraq are clearly panicking, they are turning their sights on Iraqis themselves. Today they have killed innocent Iraqis with the same disdain toward their own people they showed for 35 years."
The attackers seem to be growing bolder. The 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment, which has lost around 10 of its soldiers to postwar ambushes, is headquartered in a former presidential palace in Ramadi that sports Arabic graffiti on its entry wall: "Saddam's return is better than Bush's freedom."
The Ramadi blast came from a TNT-filled bag of rice that was detonated by remote control, said Maj. Anthony Aguto. He said U.S. soldiers planned to question Ramadi residents Saturday night in hopes of finding information on the bombers.
"We'll be knocking on doors," Aguto said. "These will not be raids."
Calvert said the explosion was "not the result of any coalition actions or accidents."
But in Ramadi, victims and their families laid the blame on the United States.
"The Americans have done it. Who else would do a thing like this?" said police instructor Abdel-Karim Hamadi, speaking at the bedside of an injured cadet at Ramadi General Hospital.
Young men responding to the call for blood donations rushed into the hospital's surgery ward with nylon bags carrying their own blood. Squatting on hospital floors, women in black chadors beat their heads in anguish, many sobbing and screaming.
Dr. Irfan Abdul Razzak put the toll of injured at 54 and said that 15 victims underwent emergency surgery Saturday afternoon. The hospital's entire emergency ward was covered in blood, and victims filled the corridors waiting for treatment.
The U.S.-led provisional government says it is working hard to restore order and rebuild Iraq, with the program to train Ramadi's police force part of those efforts.
The explosion came a day after the release of an audiotape purportedly from Saddam that has threatened to energize anti-U.S. forces and deepen the ongoing insurgency. In the tape, the speaker urges Iraqis not to cooperate with American "infidels" and says new cells have been formed to carry out attacks.