BAGHDAD – A suicide truck bomb packed with a ton of explosives detonated near an Iraqi police headquarters in Mosul Friday, killing five US soldiers and two Iraqi policemen in the deadliest attack on American forces in more than a year.
The US military said two American soldiers and 20 Iraqi security forces were also wounded in the attack on the National Police headquarters in southwest Mosul. Dozens of civilians in the surrounding area were also said to have been wounded in the blast.
Interior Ministry spokesman Maj. Gen. Abdul Karim Khalaf told state-run Iraqiya television that the truck was packed with about 2,000 pounds of explosives when it slammed into a security barrier near the police headquarters.
Mosul, 200 miles north of Baghdad, remains the most dangerous city in Iraq. A US batallion commander, three of his soldiers, and their Iraqi interpreter were killed there by a suicide car bomber in February.
Friday’s death toll was the highest for US forces in a single incident since March 2008, when a suicide bomber killed five American soldiers on patrol in central Baghdad.
American and Iraqi forces are still engaged in a major military operation to clear Mosul neighborhoods of insurgents. US troops are expected to stay in the city past the June deadline for all American combat forces to be out of Iraqi cities, General Raymond Odierno told The Christian Science Monitor during a recent visit there.
He said Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki was expected to ask US forces to stay in Mosul and in Baquba in Diyala Province, where Iraqi security forces need more time to be able to hold neighborhoods American troops have helped them clear.
Mr. Maliki sent in several thousand paramilitary National Police to Mosul to help maintain security but the city, at the center of Sunni-Kurdish tension, still lacks enough Iraqi soldiers. Many of the Iraqi Army units sent in to maintain security have in the past been largely Kurdish.
US President Barack Obama, on a quick visit to Baghdad Tuesday, told US military personnel that it was time for Iraq to take care of itself.
While that may work in most parts of the country, Mosul – with a heavy concentration of former Iraqi Army generals and Baath Party officials thrown out of work when the US disbanded the Army and banned the Baath party – will likely need more time, officials say.
Intelligence officials generally blame high-profile suicide car bombings on Al Qaeda in Iraq, but say the insurgency in the north is also fueled by Baathist groups whose leaders include Izzat Ibrahim al-Douri, Saddam Hussein’s former deputy.