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Last Updated: Wednesday, 21 April, 2004, 21:56 GMT 22:56 UK
Iraq's police under fire
Police trainees in Basra
Despite the dangers, there are more applicants than jobs

Bomb attacks outside police stations and an academy in the Basra area of southern Iraq are the latest in a series of devastating attacks against the country's civilian security forces.

The local security forces in general and police officers in particular are often caught between the heavily-armed and well-protected coalition soldiers and insurgents intent on using violence against anyone they see as helping the occupation force.

More than 300 officers have been killed since the new police force was established after the fall of Saddam Hussein's regime.

There have also been incidents where US soldiers have shot and killed police officers, in cases of apparent mistaken identity.

But BBC correspondents across Iraq say there continue to be many applicants for every new police post, in a country where jobs are scarce.

Minimum age 20
Starting monthly salary of $60 plus $87 hazardous duty pay
To be armed with 9mm pistols and AK 47 rifles
Distinctive uniform
The Coalition Provisional Authority which runs Iraq says there are approximately 67,000 officers in the new Iraqi Police Service and a further 9,000 in the border force.

New recruits are trained for eight weeks while experienced officers are sent on a three-week course where they are taught modern techniques and international standards of human rights.

The police are given uniforms of pale blue shirts with a large arm badge showing they are civilian officers.

They drive vehicles painted blue and white with insignias.

'Easier targets'

But they do not have the helmets, body armour and protected vehicles of the foreign troops in Iraq.

Correspondents say the very nature of their job is also to interact more with local people, which makes them an easier target for guerrillas than US troops.

An injured officer is led away by colleagues after an attack in Baghdad
21 April 2004: Dozens killed in suicide car bombing attacks outside three Basra stations and at an academy in nearby Zubair
23 February 2004: "Many" killed in a suicide car bombing attack at Kirkuk station
14 February 2004: At least 20 killed in gun battle outside Falluja station
10 February: At least 45 die in blast in Iskandariya
31 January: Nine killed in blast outside Mosul station
14 December 2003: Car bomb in Khalidiya kills 17
22 November: At least 18 die in twin bombings in Baquba and Khan Bani Saad

Recent attacks on police and army recruiting centres follows a pattern of targeting Iraqis who are seen as collaborating with the occupation authorities.

But little seems to deter would-be recruits says the BBC's Jonny Dymond in Baghdad, who was told by a survivor of the bomb aimed at army recruits in February that he would be back to apply the next day.

Our correspondent says national pride is one reason for the passion for the new security forces.

"Difficult though it may be for some inside and outside Iraq to believe, given the constant tales of disaffection, many want to serve the new Iraq and help build a new future for the country," he says.

For many others, it is a simple matter of economics. At least half the workforce, maybe as many as 70%, do not have a job.


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