By SAMEER N. YACOUB
Associated Press Writer
BAGHDAD, Iraq- Two women strapped with explosives blew themselves up at Baghdad's police academy on Tuesday, killing 27 people and wounding 32, the U.S. military said.
The women blew themselves up in a classroom filled with (police) students, the statement from Task Force Baghdad said. No U.S. forces were killed or wounded in the attack, it added.
U.S. forces rushed to the scene to provide assistance, the statement said.
Iraqi police said one bomb exploded in a cafeteria, while the other detonated during roll call. Police Lt. Ali Mi'tab said the women were probably students at the academy, which is why they were not searched.
Five other female police officers were among the dead, he added.
Iraqi resistance fighters have concentrated their attacks against Iraqi security forces. Tuesday's attack was the deadliest against Iraqi forces since Feb. 28, when a suicide car bomber attacked police and National Guard recruits in Hillah, killing 125.
On Monday, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld acknowledged that the resistance has been stronger than anticipated, but he also said the news media have focused on the war's growing body count rather than progress that has been achieved.
"To be responsible, one needs to stop defining success in Iraq as the absence of terrorist attacks," Rumsfeld said in remarks at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies.
Also Monday, masked gunmen grabbed a French engineer off the streets of Baghdad, the latest in a spate of kidnappings of Westerners that coincides with Saddam Hussein's trial and the run-up to parliamentary elections.
Bernard Planche joined two Canadians, an American, a Briton and a German taken hostage in the last 10 days.
Police Maj. Falah al-Mohammadawi said he didn't have any additional information Tuesday about the kidnapping, but that the interior ministry had distributed Planche's photo to the all checkpoints around Baghdad.
In London, British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw on Monday encouraged the kidnappers of the Briton to make contact, saying "we stand ready to hear what they have to say."
The British Broadcasting Corp. cited a Western diplomat in Baghdad as saying direct contact had been made with the hostage-takers. It did not name the diplomat.
Straw, however, underlined the British government's refusal to negotiate with kidnappers or pay ransom.
There is no evidence the kidnappings were coordinated, and those responsible for abducting the German aid worker and four Christian peace activists claim to represent different groups. But the incidents do seem timed to Saddam's trial or the Dec. 15 elections.
Mustafa Alani, director of security and terrorism studies at the Gulf Research Center in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, said he thinks the sudden increase is not an accident.
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"There is some sort of policy to go back to kidnappings," he said. "The elections are coming and these groups want attention and publicity. That way their political statement will get a priority in the Western media."