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Al Qaeda goes north: Police chief killed in Mosul

The provincial police chief died in a suicide bombing Thursday while inspecting the site of a major bombing in Mosul.

By Sam DagherCorrespondent of The Christian Science Monitor / January 25, 2008

Devastated neighborhood: On Wednesday, a massive explosion destroyed or badly damaged 35 houses and killed 34 people in Mosul, a city in northern Iraq.




The police chief of the northern Iraqi province of Nineveh was killed by a suicide bomber dressed in a police uniform Thursday in the provincial capital of Mosul, according to the US military. He had arrived to survey the scene of a major bomb attack that had devastated an entire neighborhood the day before.

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Brig. Gen. Saleh Muhammad Hassan al-Jubouri is the second Iraqi provincial police chief to be killed in less than two months and his death underscores the fragility of the security situation in northern Iraq which has seen numerous attacks in recent weeks. Al Qaeda-linked insurgents have fled to this area from Baghdad and Anbar Province to the south and are targeting new citizen militias, US officials say.

Al Qaeda in Iraq's "first choice [as a base of operations] was Anbar, and Mosul is the best substitute for Anbar," says Mustafa al-Ani, an analyst with the Dubai-based Gulf Research Center.

General Jubouri had only been the provincial police chief for two months, the province's deputy governor Khasro Goran told the Monitor in a telephone interview from Mosul.

The US military said in a statement Thursday that two Iraqi policemen were killed and a US and Iraqi soldier were wounded in the attack against Jubouri, who was a native of the province. He hailed from a major predominantly Sunni Arab tribe, whose members have in recent months joined US-funded militia groups dubbed Concerned Local Citizens (CLCs) in the fight against Al Qaeda-linked militants.

The Wednesday attack in Mosul, while not unexpected, was on a tragic scale. At least 34 people were killed and 224 wounded when a three-floor building was blown up in the neighborhood of Al-Zanjili, a notorious insurgent stronghold on Mosul's west side.

Mr. Goran, the deputy governor, says the explosion occurred when the Iraqi Army arrived at the scene after receiving a tip that the abandoned building was being used by insurgents to store weapons and arms.

He says the powerful explosion brought down dozens of old homes in Zanjili. Many people were trapped under the rubble for hours. Fresh television footage of the bomb scene broadcast on Thursday showed a massive crater surrounded by heaps of debris from destroyed homes.

"We asked the central government to declare it a disaster zone," says Goran.

The commander of US forces in Northern Iraq, Maj. Gen. Mark Hertling told the Monitor in a telephone interview that US military experts who examined the scene Thursday concluded that nearly 25 tons (50,000 pounds) of explosive material was used in making it one of the largest bombings in Iraq since the start of the war.
General Hertling said that this "spectacular attack" may be the work of new Al Qaeda leaders in Mosul trying to establish themselves after the capture or killing of their predecessors.