Special Reports

Iraqi police officers die in bombing; soldiers see mortar attack damage

The death toll mounted today from attacks on police and civilians in and around Kirkuk.

The Associated Press reported that police officers were dismantling what appeared to be a decoy roadside bomb 10 miles northwest of Kirkuk when another bomb exploded, killing 12 officers and injuring three others.

The AP quoted Police Brig. Sarhat Qadir saying the explosion occurred as officers were trying to cordon off the area. Apparently the bomb being dismantled was a decoy to draw in more police before the second bomb exploded.

In South Kirkuk today, a mortar round landed in a business district injuring three civilians. The mortar, which U.S. soldiers said was an 81 mm round, struck near a metal fabrication shop. It disintegrated the front of a small, cement building and peeled the metal roof back like a beer can.

The severity of the injuries was not known, but no one was believed killed.

No U.S. soldiers were injured in either attack. Alpha Company soldiers responded to the site of the mortar attack and saw the crater left by the mortar round.

At the scene, 1st Sgt. Stan Clinton checked a boy who was injured in the attack. His arm was bleeding, but not broken.

"It's amazing the amount of miracles you see here everyday," Clinton said. "To see the damage that the blast caused there and to not have dead bodies everywhere is one of them."

— Roger Phillips, Kim Hughes

It was classic sandlot baseball on a spring afternoon, but instead of a bunch of kids, it was a bunch of soldiers from the 116th's Alpha Company. The soldiers took to a dirt field behind their barracks at FOB Warrior on the Kirkuk Regional Air Base.

The game was brief, about 50 minutes, because they had plenty else to do, from patrols to paperwork.

But it was a chance to get out on a sunny day in their matching blue shorts and gray T-shirts and play ball. The soldiers looked more like football players than baseball players, thanks to months of training,lifting weights and packing 50 to 75 pounds of gear every day. They were all shoulders, biceps and quadriceps.

Their game faces were nearly all smiles, and no play, good or bad, went without some good-natured razzing. But when Alpha's company commander, Capt. Paul White of Eagle, bobbled a couple of grounders hit to third base, things got a little quieter.

Other than that, there was plenty of smack talk to go around. Even the umpire, Sgt. Pho Xayamahkham (also known as "X-man"), got in his licks — but to both side equally, of course.

After half a dozen innings, one team scored more runs than the other and the winner was declared: Alpha Company.

— Roger Phillips