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21 killed in Iraq suicide attack

Hilla (Iraq): A suicide attacker blew up a bomb-filled car at a police station south of Baghdad, killing 21 policemen on Thursday, as Iraqi forces braced for al-Qaeda revenge attacks after Osama bin Laden's death.

The attack, which also wounded at least 75 policemen, was the worst in Iraq in more than a month and pushed security chiefs to install new checkpoints, tighten access to key roads and restrict movement between provinces. The bombing left a two-metre (six-foot) crater and badly damaged the police station in the centre of the mainly Shiite city of Hilla, capital of Babil province, in addition to several nearby houses and shops, just days after U.S. special forces killed bin Laden in Pakistan.

“The suicide bomber took advantage of the police station's guards changing shifts to attack,” said Haidar al-Zazour, head of the Babil provincial council security committee.

“He managed to drive through the main gate and blew up his vehicle four metres [12 feet] inside the station's perimeter.”

The chief of Hilla's main surgical hospital put the toll from suicide bombing at 21 dead and 75 wounded, all policemen. Of the wounded, 30 were in a serious condition, the doctor said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

The explosion badly damaged the facade and several sections of the police station, which houses the emergency-response brigade, an AFP journalist said.

Babil provincial council chief Kadhim Majid al-Touman said the car was packed with 150 kg of explosives. — AFP

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