HILLAH, Iraq -- Suicide bombers detonated explosives outside a Polish-run base yesterday, killing 10 Iraqis and wounding more than 100 people, many of them coalition soldiers. The US command announced the arrest of seven suspects believed linked to Al Qaeda.
The attack in Hillah, the third suicide bombing of security targets in two weeks, was part of a wider effort "to isolate us from the Iraqi people," the coalition military commander, Lieutenant General Ricardo Sanchez, told reporters in Tikrit.
Coalition and military officials said at least 106 people were hurt in the blasts, which happened in the Hayy Babil neighborhood near Camp Charlie. The wounded included 32 Iraqis and 26 Poles, as well as Hungarians, Bulgarians, Filipinos, and an American.
The casualty toll could have been much higher had guards not opened fire and prevented the bombers from entering the camp. One truck exploded under the gunfire and another blew up after hitting a concrete barrier.
The 7:15 a.m. blasts -- from 1,540 pounds of explosives -- flattened 11 homes and stripped the sides off others in this town about 55 miles south of Baghdad.
Also yesterday, US troops arrested seven militants believed linked to Al Qaeda in the turbulent city of Baqubah, north of the capital, the military said. It gave no details on the nationalities of the militants. Fifteen others were detained in the raid.
Troops from the Fourth Infantry Division carried out the raid early targeting an "anticoalition cell" that may have ties to Osama bin Laden's terror group, a statement from the US command said.
Suicide attacks have killed 300 people, mostly Iraqis, since the beginning of the year. They have fueled speculation that Islamic extremists, possibly linked to Al Qaeda, were playing a greater role in the anticoalition insurgency. US military officials had believed the attacks were spearheaded by Saddam Hussein loyalists.
The stepped-up violence could be aimed at preventing US administrators from handing over power to the Iraqis on June 30, when Iraqi security forces would also take a more prominent role against the insurgency.
General Mieczyslaw Bieniek, commander of the 9,500-member Polish military contingent, called yesterday's bombings a "well-coordinated terrorist attack."
Mohyee Mokheef, a 50-year-old cafe owner who lives in the neighborhood, said he was having breakfast when he heard a faint first explosion and a second, louder one that shattered the windows in his home. He blamed Al Qaeda and an Iraq-based group linked to it, Ansar Al Islam.
"I saw dead and injured Iraqis lying on the ground," he said. "I suspect that Ansar Al Islam and Al Qaeda were behind these operations because they want to create strife between Sunnis and Shi'ites and between the Shi'ites and Americans. They want to derail the elections process."
Most of the wounded among multinational troops were hurt by flying debris and glass. The injuries were not life-threatening.