"I saw some of my colleagues falling down and I felt my hand hit, but I kept on running."
By ASSOCIATED PRESS
Two men strapped with explosives detonated themselves at Baghdad's police academy on Tuesday, killing at least 43 people and wounding 73 more, officials said, while al-Jazeera broadcast an insurgent video of a man purported to be a US security consultant.
The men were wearing explosives-laden vests and a US contractor was among those wounded, a US military statement said. US forces rushed to the scene to provide assistance, the statement said. The military retracted an earlier statement that the bombers were women.
"We were sitting in the yard when we heard an explosion," said police Maj. Wisam al-Heyali. "Seconds later, we were hit by another explosion as we were running. I saw some of my colleagues falling down and I felt my hand hit, but I kept on running."
Police Capt. Jalil Abdul-Qadir said Monday evening that the death toll had reached 43, including seven policewomen. At least 73 people were wounded, including six policewomen. He said all of them were officers or students at the academy.
US forces initially placed the death toll at 27.
"One of the suicide bombers detonated near a group of students outside a classroom," the Task Force Baghdad said. "Thinking the explosion was an indirect-fire attack, [Iraqi police] and students fled to a bunker for shelter where the second bomber detonated his vest."
Iraqi insurgents have concentrated their attacks against Iraqi security forces. Tuesday's attack was the deadliest against Iraqi forces since Feb. 28, when a suicide car bomber attacked mostly Shi'ite police and National Guard recruits in Hillah, killing 125.
The attack came on another day of testimony in the Saddam Hussein trial.
In a mid-afternoon broadcast, al-Jazeera television on Tuesday broadcast an Iraqi insurgent video that purported to show a kidnapped US security consultant.
The video showed a blond, Western-looking man sitting down with his hands tied behind his back. The video also bore the logo of the Islamic Army in Iraq and showed a US passport and an identification card.
The authenticity of the video could not be immediately confirmed.
If true, the man would become the second American taken hostage in the last two weeks. A US citizen was among four peace activists taken hostage on Nov. 27 by a group calling itself the Swords of Righteousness. Two Canadians and a Briton were also part of that group.
In Washington, US President Geroge W. Bush said Tuesday that the United States will work for the return of captive Americans in Iraq, but will not submit to terrorist tactics. "We, of course, don't pay ransom for any hostages," Bush said.
"What we will do, of course, is use our intelligence-gathering to see if we can't help locate them," Bush said.
A French engineer was taken hostage in Baghdad on Monday and a German aid worker was abducted near Mosul on Nov. 26.
Police Maj. Falah al-Mohammedawi said he didn't have any additional information Tuesday about the kidnapping of the French engineers, Bernard Planche, but that the interior ministry had distributed Planche's photo to the all checkpoints around Baghdad.
There is no evidence the kidnappings were coordinated, and those responsible for abducting the German aid worker and four Christian peace activists claim to represent different groups. But the incidents do seem timed to Saddam's trial or the Dec. 15 elections.
Christian Peacemaker Teams issued another statement Tuesday, appealing to the kidnappers to release the four activists.
"As you can see by the statements of support from our friends in Iraq and all over the world, we work for those who are oppressed," the group said. "We also condemn our own governments for their actions in Iraq."
Also Tuesday, a US statement said a soldier assigned to Task Force Baghdad was killed when a patrol hit a roadside bomb Sunday. No other details were made public.
At least 2,129 members of the US military have died since the beginning of the Iraq war, according to an Associated Press count.
The US Marines updated their report Tuesday on the deaths of 10 Marines on Dec. 1.
The statement said that the Marines from Company F, 2nd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment were not on a foot patrol, as previously reported, and were instead inside an abandoned flourmill. The troops used the mill as a temporary patrol base.
"The platoon swept the area for explosives and established security around the factory," the statement said. "On that day, the company commander traveled to the patrol base to promote three Marines. A promotion ceremony involving a group of Marines was conducted inside the patrol base."
After the ceremony, the men dispersed, it said.
"It is suspected that one of the Marines triggered a hidden pressure plate initiation device, causing the explosion," the statement explained. "Explosive experts believe four artillery shells were buried in two separate locations."