Meanwhile, in Iraq the slaughter goes on

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The Independent Online

Many had hoped the capture of Saddam Hussein would put an end to the insurgency that has been carrying out deadly attacks against US troops and Iraqi targets. But any such wishfulness was swiftly crushed when suicide bombers killed eight Iraqi policemen and injured at least 30 civilians in two suicide bomb attacks in Baghdad.

In what may well be a clear indication that the resistance to US occupation will continue despite the capture of the former Iraqi leader, two car bombs were detonated outside Iraqi police stations in different parts of the city.

US troops killed 11 attackers after coming under attack in Samarra, north of Baghdad, a military statement said, and in Saddam's home town of Tikrit, a roadside bomb injured three soldiers.

Gunmen ambushed an American patrol in Samarra, 60 miles north of Baghdad, using automatic weapons and rocket propelled grenades but caused neither casualties nor damage to the patrol which called in reinforcements, the statement said.

US forces also met civil resistance on the streets. The military announced that soldiers in Ramadi, west of Baghdad, killed three protesters and wounded two more, after up to 750 people rallied in a show of support for Saddam.

The statement said that US troops were fired upon repeatedly and that one soldier was wounded.

Pro-Saddam demonstrations have been held in several Iraqi towns, casting doubts on claims by the US-led coalition that the people of Iraq universally welcomed his arrest.

In Tikrit, 10 miles from Saddam was captured, about 700 people rallied in the town centre chanting "Saddam is in our hearts, Saddam is in our blood." US soldiers and Iraqi policemen yelled back: "Saddam is in our jail."

On the northern outskirts of the Iraqi capital, a suicide bomber driving a four-wheel-drive taxi killed eight policemen at their station in Husainiyah, yesterday. The commanding officer, Lieutenant-Colonel Ali Amer, told reporters that 10 officers were injured. Residents said at least five civilians, including a five-year-old girl, were wounded by flying glass and debris.

"We were in a state of shock," said Salem Eid Ali, who lives across the street from the station and who was injured by flying glass, along with his wife and two children. "We were having breakfast and each of us was thrown by the power of the blast. We had to carry my family from above the back wall of the house in order to take them to hospital."

Colonel Hamad Ghazban, another Iraqi officer, said of the attackers: "These are al-Qa'ida people. Saddam does not have the power to do these kinds of things. His ability is too weak. Last night we saw him in a hole."

Just hours before, in the Ameriyah neighbourhood of the city, eight policemen were injured when a suicide bomber detonated his vehicle packed with explosives at about 8am. The attack would have been much worse had Iraqi police and US Military Police not fired at a second explosives-laden vehicle that was following the first car. That intervention prevented the second vehicle from ramming into the station, and the driver fled the scene without detonating his device. He was later captured.

Brigadier General Mark Hertling of the US Army said: "Right now, we don't know what the target was. It goes with the intelligence we had yesterday, that there would be several [car bombs]. We dodged a couple of bullets in Baghdad."

Yesterday's attacks appear to undermine the views of those who said that Saddam and his so-called "Baathist hold-outs" have been behind the wave of attacks against US targets. Even President George Bush predicted yesterday that there would be continuing violence. "The terrorists in Iraq remain dangerous. The work of our coalition remains difficult and will require further sacrifice," he said at a press conference in Washington.

Meanwhile in Baghdad police fired into the air to disperse hundreds of people chanting: "We want Saddam back."

The attacks in Husainiyah and Ameriyah follow a similar car bomb attack on Sunday in which 17 people were killed in Khalidiyah, about 60 miles west of Baghdad, just 12 hours after the former Iraqi leader was taken into US custody.