A newly constructed Iraqi police station that had been twice destroyed by suicide bombers was damaged early Monday by a car bomb that killed two police officers and wounded four more, according to the U.S. military.
Eight U.S. soldiers who occupy a patrol base next to the Iraqi police station in northern Babil province suffered minor injuries in the attack as well.
The $440,000 police station, located in a Sunni Arab date-growing region roughly 20 miles southwest of Baghdad, opened Sept. 12. U.S. and Iraqi security forces have seen frequent insurgent attacks in the area, and soldiers and police were bracing for just such an assault.
“This is the third station we’ve built there. The first two were blown up and this one’s going to get blown up too,” said Lt. Col. Dale Johnson, of the Army Corps of Engineers, days after the station’s opening.
Soldiers of Company B, 1st Battalion, 67th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division fired at a white two-door sedan and its occupants as the vehicle barreled through the front gates of the police station, according to the military news release.
Simultaneously, insurgents launched attacks on several guard towers at the patrol base adjacent to the station with mortar and rifle fire. The car bomb continued toward the station and detonated when it crashed into the northwest corner of the police station.
The Jurf As Sakhir Police Station has been critical in the battalion’s campaign to fold the former Baathist stronghold into an integrated, new Iraq, according to Lt. Col. Pat Donahoe, commander of the 1-67. Recently, Donahoe met with local Iraqi police, Iraqi army and district officials who were requesting that additional officers be assigned to the station.
During the last 10 months, soldiers from the Fort Hood, Texas-based 1-67 have struggled to integrate the local police force so that it has equal numbers of Sunni and Shiite officers. Currently, the district police force has 70 percent Shiite officers and 30 percent Sunni.
“Our goal is to get a good 50-50 mix,” Donahoe said recently.
Donahoe’s area of operations is one of the most politically and tactically complicated in Iraq.
The battalion’s headquarters straddles the Shiite-Sunni fault line south of Baghdad. While battalion soldiers in the northern half of the area of operations are busy fighting Sunni Arab insurgents, soldiers in the southern half, which includes the Shiite city of Karbala, must contend with a mix of competing Shiite political groups and militias.
Ensuring the Jurf As Sakhir police station’s security has been a major focus of 1-67 soldiers.
“The worst thing that could happen now is for that IP station to get blown up,” Donahoe said shortly after the new station was opened.
“That would set us back a year.”