KHALDIYAH, Iraq – A suspected homicide attacker detonated a car bomb outside an Iraqi police station Sunday near Baghdad (search), killing at least 17 people and wounding 33 others, hours before the announcement of Saddam Hussein's (search) capture, the U.S. military said.
Also Sunday, an American soldier was killed trying to defuse a roadside bomb.
In the evening, after celebrations in the capital over the news of Saddam's arrest, three barrels of gasoline mounted on a pickup truck exploded in central Baghdad. No one was hurt, and it was not clear whether the explosion was an accident or an attack.
The car bombing in Khaldiyah, 50 miles west of Baghdad (search), killed police officers, city workers and civilian bystanders, U.S. Army Lt. Col. Jeff Swisher said.
No American soldiers were in the area when the bomb exploded and none was hurt in the blast, the military said.
An emergency room administrator at a hospital in the nearby city of Ramadi (search) put the toll even higher -- 21 killed and more than 20 wounded. Many victims were Iraqi police officers and workers sweeping the street outside the district police office, said hospital administrator Haitham Bahar Taha.
The attack took place after Saddam was arrested near the city of Tikrit to the north Saturday evening, but before Iraqi and U.S. officials announced the capture.
A Khaldiyah policeman, Mohammed Abed, said an "unfamiliar" car was parked outside the station moments before the blast.
U.S. troops arriving on the scene blocked off the area, and two helicopters hovered overhead. U.S. soldiers and Iraqi police later surveyed the site of the blast, which left a huge crater in the road and collapsed a large section of the building's front wall. Several destroyed cars were scattered nearby.
Muthana Hameed, a resident, said he saw many bodies of police and municipal workers.
Sunday's bombing was the latest of several police station blasts that have killed dozens of police officers in the past few months. Anti-U.S. assailants appear to target the police and other municipal officials because they are viewed as collaborators with the U.S.-led occupation.
U.S. troops also have been targeted by homicide bombers three times in the past week in attacks that left dozens of soldiers wounded and one killed.
Khaldiyah is in the so-called Sunni Triangle, where attacks against occupation troops and their Iraqi allies have been fiercest. The area is west and north of the capital.
The device that killed the U.S. soldier Sunday was placed on a telephone pole next to the road near al-Haswah, 25 miles south of Baghdad. The soldier, an explosives disposal specialist, approached the bomb to disarm it when it exploded.
The soldier was the 453rd to die in Iraq, according to Department of Defense statistics; 313 service members have been killed by hostile action since the start of the war on March 20.
The explosion Sunday evening in Baghdad took place when a white four-wheel drive pickup truck, carrying the barrels of gasoline, caught fire. The car was destroyed.
Witnesses Ahmed Abdul-Rahman and Adel Majid said two people wearing police uniforms were in the vehicle and fled shortly before the explosions occurred. There were no casualties.
Shortly after the explosions, bursts of gunfire rang out from the area. The explosions occurred at 8:20 p.m. local time in the central Baghdad's street of al-Saadoun, a busy thoroughfare.
Two fire trucks arrived a few minutes later and put out the blaze. U.S. troops as well as Iraqi policemen and soldiers, cordoned the area and banned journalists from getting close to the car.