BAGHDAD, Iraq – Insurgents launched a series of attacks targeting security forces in Baghdad on Thursday, killing at least 19 people in another apparent assault on the credibility of the new Iraqi government.

The violence began at dawn on Thursday, when gunmen opened fire on two police checkpoints in Baghdad. Eight police officers were killed and one was wounded, said Col. Jalal Mohammed, an Iraqi police commander.

Then, at 7 a.m., a car bomb exploded in front of a deputy interior minister’s house in Ghazaliyah, a middle-class, Sunni neighborhood where many Saddam-era military officers also live. The official, Maj. General Hikmat Mousa Sleman, survived, but a policeman died and another six were wounded, an Interior Ministry official said.

Minutes later, a man strapped with explosives blew himself up in the middle of a crowd of Iraqi army recruits at a camp at al-Muthana Airport, a former military airport in central Baghdad. The suicide bomber had walked past concrete barriers topped with barbed wire that encircled the recruiting camp.

Hospital officials said the blast killed five army officers and six recruits.

Despite the blast, and threats of two more car bombs to come, more than 20 recruits were still waiting outside the camp two hours later.

“I heard someone shout “Allah u Akbar’ (God is Great) before the explosion,” said Adnan Jabir, 25, who was at the end of a line of recruits snaking outside the fortifications when the attack occurred.

“I decided to stay here because I’m badly in need of a job,” he said.

Another recruit who was waiting to discover the fate of two friends who were in the camp during the attack said he’d been wounded in an attack at the same center a year ago, but had come back six times since in search of work.

“I still insist on joining the army in order to challenge the terrorists. They can’t defeat or intimidate Iraqis by their attacks,” said Ali Jawad Kadhim, 32.

Kadhim had traveled from a distant province to be at the recruiting camp Thursday morning. He arrived late, sparing him from the blast.

On Wednesday, a similar attack in Irbil, in the country’s relatively safe Kurdish northern region, killed at least 45 people and wounded 90, according to the Iraqi Interior Ministry. The targets there were also job seekers massed around a police-recruiting center.

The renewed violence came as the newly installed government continued to struggle to fill vacant Cabinet posts reserved for Sunni Arabs.

Sunni Arabs, who controlled Iraq’s government for decades, are underrepresented in the current government because they mostly stayed away from the polls in the Jan. 30 elections. They’re considered to be the backbone of the insurgency.

Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari, a Shiite Muslim, had hoped to placate the resistance by giving Sunnis meaningful leadership roles, including the prominent post of defense minister. Two days after swearing in his Cabinet, however, there was still no deal on a Sunni acceptable to the Shiite leadership and the Sunni community to run the country’s army and border police.

On Wednesday, about 150 Sunni tribal leaders met with Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Chalabi at a hunting club in Baghdad to offer alternative candidates for the vacant Cabinet posts.

Their nominee for defense minister is Sheik Fasal Rekan al-Go’oud, the governor of Anbar province, which is the seat of the insurgency.

The sheiks said the Iraqi Committee for National Dialogue, the group that al-Jaafari has been working with to find Sunnis for top jobs, didn’t represent disenfranchised Sunnis. The group has repeatedly recommended Cabinet appointees whom al-Jaafari has rejected, often because of the nominees’ suspected ties to the old regime.

“The dialogue committee appointed itself as our representative without getting legitimacy from the governorates,” said Talat Alwazan, one of the sheiks. “It imposed itself on (us). … They were seeking positions and not true representation for the governorates that didn’t participate in the election.”

Chalabi said al-Jaafari and others were close to a decision on the unnamed ministries, but he told the men that he would submit their nominations.

Meanwhile, as the negotiations dragged on, many Iraqis were growing weary.

“This escalation is a dangerous sign,” said Maj. Subhi Ahmed, who was at Yarmouk Hospital Thursday trying to identify a colleague’s corpse amid a row of burned and mutilated bodies under bloodstained sheets.

More than a dozen victims of Thursday’s attacks filled the emergency room, where the floor was stained with blood.

“Because things are getting worse day by day, I suggested we open a branch for Yarmouk Hospital near the recruiting centers,” said Jamil Hussein, an emergency room doctor treating the wounded.

“I’ve been working day and night since the announcement of the new government,” he said. “We’re still receiving dead civilians and military people despite that day.”


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