Female suicide bombers target Iraqi police

Two women strapped with explosives detonated themselves at Baghdad's police academy today, killing 27 people and wounding 32 more, the US military said.

The women blew themselves up in a classroom filled with students, the statement from Task Force Baghdad said. No US forces were killed or wounded in the attack, it added.

US forces rushed to the scene to provide assistance, the statement said.

Iraqi police said one bomb exploded in a cafeteria, while the other detonated during roll call. Police Lt. Ali Mi'tab said the women were probably students at the academy, which is why they were not searched.

Five other female police officers were among the dead, he added.

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 Shiite police and National Guard recruits in Hillah, killing 125.

Yesterday, US Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld acknowledged that the insurgency has been stronger than anticipated, but he also said the news media have focused on the war's growing body count rather than progress that has been achieved.

"To be responsible, one needs to stop defining success in Iraq as the absence of terrorist attacks," Rumsfeld said in remarks at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies.

Also yesterday, masked gunmen grabbed a French engineer off the streets of Baghdad, the latest in a spate of kidnappings of Westerners that coincides with Saddam Hussein's trial and the run-up to parliamentary elections.

Bernard Planche joined two Canadians, an American, a Briton and a German taken hostage in the last 10 days.

Police Maj. Falah al-Mohammadawi said he didn't have any additional information today about the kidnapping, but that the interior ministry had distributed Planche's photo to the all checkpoints around Baghdad.

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