MOSUL, Iraq – Bombers struck a police headquarters, an army base and a hospital around Mosul (search) on Sunday, killing 33 people in a setback to efforts to rebuild the northwestern city's police force that was riven by intimidation from insurgents seven months ago.
At least 14 people were killed in attacks elsewhere in Iraq, including a U.S. soldier whose convoy was hit by a roadside bomb in Baghdad (search) and six Iraqi soldiers who were gunned down outside their base north of the capital.
Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld (search), meanwhile, said it may take as long as 12 years to defeat the insurgents. He said Iraq's security forces will have to finish the job because American and foreign troops will have left the country by then.
The attacks in Mosul, 225 miles northwest of Baghdad, started early Sunday when a bomber with explosives hidden beneath watermelons in a pickup truck slammed into a downtown police station near a market. U.S. Army Capt. Mark Walter said 10 policemen and two civilians were killed.
Less than two hours later, a bomber blew himself up in the parking lot of an Iraqi army base on Mosul's outskirts, killing 16 people, Walter said. Most of the victims were civilian workers arriving at the site, he said. Of the seven injured, one lost a leg and another was paralyzed from the waist down, the military said.
A third attacker strapped with explosives walked into Mosul's Jumhouri Teaching Hospital in the afternoon and blew himself up in a room used by police guarding the facility, killing five policemen.
An Associated Press reporter was outside the hospital when the explosion occurred, blowing a hole in a side of the building and injuring some police officers outside. Smoke then began pouring out of the hole, followed by flames.
Inside, dead police officers who apparently had been sleeping were sprawled in their underwear, their bodies and the walls peppered with ball bearings.
"I thought it was a mortar attack. I rushed to help and evacuate the dead. I picked up two legs and two hands. It seems they belonged to the bomber because we did not find a head or the rest of his body," said Ahmed Mohammed al-Hadidi, hospital medic.
Abu Musab al-Zarqawi's Al Qaeda in Iraq claimed responsibility for the attacks in Mosul — the country's third-largest city. The claim, which was made on an Internet site used by militants, could not be verified.
Sitting on the banks of the Tigris River, Mosul is a religious and ethnic mosaic that some see as a microcosm of Iraq.
Some of Iraq's most feared terror groups — including the Ansar al-Sunnah Army and Al Qaeda in Iraq — operate in the city.
Last November, gunmen stormed police stations, bridges and political offices, overwhelming police forces who often failed to put up a fight. Some officers also allegedly cooperated with insurgents. Only about 1,000 of the city's 5,000 policemen returned to work, forcing the government to recruit new officers.
The U.S. military praised the Iraqi forces for their efforts in the face of Sunday's attacks, saying "policemen in Mosul have continued to man their posts."
Rumsfeld said he is bracing for even more violence.
"We're not going to win against the insurgency. The Iraqi people are going to win against the insurgency. That insurgency could go on for any number of years. Insurgencies tend to go on five, six, eight, 10, 12 years," Rumsfeld told "Fox News Sunday."
The defense secretary also acknowledged that U.S. officials have met with insurgents in Iraq, after a British newspaper reported that two recent meetings at a villa north of Baghdad.
Insurgent commanders "apparently came face to face" with four American officials during meetings on June 3 and June 13 at a villa near Balad, about 25 miles north of Baghdad, The Sunday Times reported.
When asked on NBC's "Meet the Press" about the report of the two meetings, Rumsfeld said, "I think there have probably been many more than that."
He insisted the talks did not involve negotiations with al-Zarqawi and other terrorists, but were rather facilitating efforts by the Shiite-led government to reach out to minority Sunni Arabs, who are believed to be the driving force behind the insurgency.
The American soldier was killed and two were wounded when a roadside bomb struck a U.S. convoy Sunday in the capital, said Sgt. 1st Class David Abrams, a spokesman for Task Force Baghdad. At least 1,735 members of the U.S. military have died since the Iraq war started in March 2003, according to an AP count.
The U.S. military on Sunday also confirmed the deaths of two more Marines in Thursday's ambush on a convoy carrying female U.S. troops in Fallujah, bringing the number killed to at least four Marines. A Marine and a sailor were still missing and presumed dead, the military said. At least two of the dead were women, and 11 of the 13 wounded troops were female.
Also Sunday, six Iraqi soldiers were gunned down outside their base in Sadiyah, 60 miles north of Baghdad.
In other developments:
— A mortar round exploded at a house in eastern Baghdad, killing a woman and two children.
— Gunmen killed police Col. Riyad Abdul Karim, an assistant district police director of emergency services, in eastern Baghdad. Al Qaeda in Iraq claimed responsibility for the attack.
— A female journalist working for Iraqiyah TV was shot to death in Baghdad.
— Four mortar rounds hit a neighborhood in central Ramadi, killing one civilian.
— Gunmen killed the owner of a pharmacy in western Iraq, hospital officials said
— The Iraqi tribunal investigating members of Saddam Hussein's regime released a videotape showing two of the ousted dictator's half brothers being questioned about their alleged role in displacing and killing Kurds.
— The U.S. military announced that American soldiers detained 25 suspected insurgents and seized weapons caches Friday in the western Anbar province.