January 23, 2008 in Nation/World

Suicide bomber hits high school north of Baghdad

Christopher Chester Associated Press

Casualty first for MRAP vehicle

The U.S. military said a soldier killed over the weekend south of Baghdad was the first American casualty in a roadside bomb attack on the newly introduced, heavily armored MRAP – Mine-Resistant, Ambush-Protected vehicle. The truck’s design – a crew capsule that rides a few feet above the road with a V-shape hull to deflect a blast – helps troops survive roadside bomb attacks better than Humvees.

BAGHDAD – A suicide bomber pushing an electric heater atop a cart packed with hidden explosives attacked a high school north of Baghdad on Tuesday, leaving students and teachers bloodied and bewildered as insurgents appeared to be expanding their list of targets.

The bombing – one of two attacks near schools on the same day – follows a wave of recent blasts blamed on al-Qaida in Iraq against funerals and social gatherings.

The trend points to the possibility that al-Qaida has shifted tactics to focus increasingly on so-called soft targets and undermine public confidence that things are looking better in the country.

In the suicide attack, the bomber posed as a shopper or merchant transporting an electric heater on a chilly winter day – an apparent attempt to deflect attention from the explosive-rigged cart.

The blast struck the front of a two-story schoolhouse in Baqouba about 8:30 a.m., half an hour after classes began.

A 25-year-old male bystander was killed and 21 people were wounded – 12 students, eight teachers and a policeman.

“I can’t think of any reason to target students,” said 15-year-old Mohammed Abbas, his wounded head in a bandage as his father stood near his hospital bed in Baqouba, about 35 miles northeast of Baghdad. “We did not expect that explosions would reach our school.”

In the other attack, a roadside bomb exploded next to a girl’s high school in Baghdad’s western district of Amiriyah, wounding a 7-year-old boy who was passing by. But police said the target was an American patrol, not the school.

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