The two vehicles blew up on Thursday at 7.30am (0430 GMT), with the first vehicle apparently serving as a decoy for the second.

 

"There was a Kia vehicle that tried to enter the checkpoint and at this moment blew up. It was not that effective but made a large amount of smoke so we couldn't see anything," said police officer Muhammad Jaafar, who witnessed the blast.

 

"Two minutes later, a Jeep Cherokee reached the checkpoint, opened fire with an MG machinegun and police responded with PKC fire on the vehicle, but it was too late because he reached the checkpoint and blew up."

 

Confirmation

 

An Interior Ministry official confirmed the account. He said the toll had risen to five police killed and five wounded. Police had originally said the attack killed two and wounded five.

 

Shortly before the attack, fighters fired a rocket-propelled grenade at an Iraqi army checkpoint near the ministry, causing a fire, a senior Interior Ministry official said.

 

"The party which committed this attack was known to us. We arrested some of them yesterday and two days before. We were prepared"

Interior Ministry official

Police cars and ambulances rushed the wounded to al-Kindi hospital in eastern Baghdad.

 

Police officers carried wounded colleagues into the emergency room.

 

Men headed into the hospital morgue to view the dead and walked out crying.

 

On alert

 

A second senior Interior Ministry official said police had been on alert for such an attack.

 

"The party which committed this attack was known to us. We arrested some of them yesterday and two days before. We were prepared," he said.

 

It was the second bloody morning in Baghdad after a car bomb targeted Iraqi security forces Wednesday, killing 10 soldiers.

 

US soldier killed

 

Elsewhere, a US soldier was killed on Wednesday in Iraq's northern Babil province, the US military said on Thursday.

 

"A soldier assigned to the First Marine Expeditionary Force was killed in action yesterday, while conducting security and stability operations in the north Babil province," the military said in a statement.

 

The latest death brought the number of US personnel killed in attacks or accidents in Iraq to 1492, since the launch of the American-led invasion nearly two years ago, according to Pentagon figures.