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Wednesday, July 28, 2004 - Page updated at 11:44 A.M.
Car bomb explodes outside Iraq police station, killing at least 68
By Paul Garwood
Dozens of burned bodies lay strewn across the street and piled on curbsides, and vehicles, fruit stalls and shops were turned into a bloody tangle of twisted metal after the blast, which targeted Iraqis lined up outside a police recruiting station.
"These were all innocent Iraqis, there were no Americans," one angry man shouted as Iraqis tried to cover the dead with pieces of cardboard.
The attack came three days ahead of a crucial national conference aimed at creating an interim assembly, widely considered a vital step toward democracy, and the blast demonstrated the willingness and ability of insurgents to carry out devastating attacks even after the handover of power to a new Iraqi government in June.
The bloodshed could fuel anger among some Iraqis over civilian casualties from attacks that insurgents say target the United States and the pro-U.S. administration. U.S. forces have been trying to lower their profile and put Iraqi security forces in the front lines of the fight with militants.
"(The bombing) was once again an attempt by murderers to deny the Iraqi people their dream of a peaceful country that rests on a solid foundation of freedom," Secretary of State Colin Powell said during a news conference in Cairo. "We have to condemn it, we have to fight it. We must not let these kinds of tragic incidents deter us from our goal."
Iraqi officials who said they expected attacks to intensify as the country tries to edge toward democracy fear Saturday's national conference will be a major target for attack. During the conference, some 1,000 delegates are to put together an assembly that will work alongside Prime Minister Iyad Allawi's government.
"The terrorists' goal is to hamper the police work, terrorize our citizens and show that the government is unable to protect the Iraqi people, and this will not happen," said Hamid al-Bayati, a deputy foreign minister.
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