Terrorist groups are finding new ways to foil Iraqi security, the top U.S. commander in Iraq said Tuesday as Baghdad was again hit by a suicide car bomb that sheared off the front of the main crime lab. At least 22 people were killed.
The attack came a day after car bombings struck three Baghdad hotels favored by Western journalists and security contractors. The back-to-back blasts were the latest in a series of major assaults since August that underscore an evolving tactic by suspected militants to target high-profile government sites with attacks involving high degrees of planning and coordination.
Insurgents such as al-Qaida in Iraq "have become more creative at how to conduct attacks," the top U.S. commander in Iraq, Gen. Raymond Odierno, told reporters.
The methods include wrapping explosives into the gears and slats of vehicle chassis or into carefully concealed chambers, he said.
He said Iraqi authorities have requested scanners capable of looking inside sealed portions of vehicles. Iraqi forces have been reluctant to expand the use of bomb-sniffing dogs because of the widely held Muslim tradition that avoids contact with dogs.
"They are willing to use them against vehicles," he said. "They don't want to use them against people."
In Tuesday's attack, the bomber tried to drive a bomb-rigged pickup truck through a checkpoint and around blast walls protecting the forensic evidence office run by the Interior Ministry, said police officials who spoke on condition of anonymity.
The force of the blast toppled some of the 3-meter concert blast walls weighing seven tons and sliced away portions of the building's facade. At least 22 people were killed -- including 18 police officers and some civilian visitors -- and nearly 90 were wounded, said police and hospital officials.
They are willing to use them against vehicles. They don't want to use them against people
Top U.S. commander in Iraq Gen. Raymond Odierno
A day before, three suicide car bombings struck hotels in central Baghdad in quick succession. In at least one attack, gunmen flanked the vehicle and drove away guards. At least 41 people were killed and some offices of Western media were badly damaged.
Odierno's comments came as Iraq defended the use of a British-supplied bomb-detection device that is the subject of probes about whether it actually works. Britain has banned its export to Iraq and Afghanistan, but Iraqi security forces continue to operate the hand-held units at checkpoints.
It's not certain whether the bombers in this week's attacks passed through Iraqi inspections before reaching their targets. But the blasts left officials again facing accusations of security lapses.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility. In other recent major attacks in Baghdad -- in August, October and December -- a group linked to al-Qaida said it carried out the bombings. Each wave of blasts targeted government sites, such as ministries and courts, and each claimed more than 100 lives.
Odierno said U.S. military intelligence indicates between five and 10 main insurgent leaders planning the attacks in Baghdad. He said some of the leaders are believed to be university trained, with degrees in business administration, engineering and law.
He said the duels between Iraqi forces and insurgents show no signs of easing.
In Washington, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton condemned this week's attacks, saying: "The terrorists who committed these crimes aim to sow fear among the Iraqi people, but they will not succeed in derailing Iraq's effort's to build a future of peace and security. The Iraqi people are engaging in the democratic process and laying the foundation for upcoming elections."
The terrorists who committed these crimes aim to sow fear among the Iraqi people, but they will not succeed in derailing Iraq's effort's to build a future of peace and security
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton