Truck bomb explodes near Iraq's largest dam

MOSUL, Iraq, Dec 17 (Reuters) - A truck packed with explosives blew up on Monday close to Iraq's largest dam, partly destroying the main access bridge and killing a policeman, police said.

The blast caused no damage to the Mosul Dam itself, which U.S. Army engineers have previously warned is poorly constructed and in danger of imminent collapse.

An engineer at the dam, Abdul-Khalaq Dhanoon, said a section of the 250-metre long metal bridge, which is about 1 kilometre from the dam, had been destroyed in the explosion.

One policeman guarding the bridge was killed and a second seriously wounded, Brigadier-General Abdul-Kareem al-Jubouri, commander of police operations in northern Nineveh province, told Reuters.

Jubouri said the bomber parked his truck near the bridge, telling police that it had broken down and that he need to fetch a tow truck. Shortly after he left the scene it detonated.

The dam, which sits on the Tigris River and holds 12 billion cubic metres of water, could flood two Iraqi cities killing tens of thousands of people if it is destroyed or collapses, according to a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers report obtained by the Washington Post in October.

Iraqi officials have tried to play down those warnings as alarmist and said measures were being take to shore up the 3.5 km- (2.2 mile-) long dam that has been weakened by cavities caused by soil being washed out.

The U.S. and Iraqi governments started work to improve the dam in 2005, but the U.S. inspector for Iraq Reconstruction said in October the project had so far failed to improve the grouting programme to fill the cavities under the dam. (Writing by Ross Colvin, Editing by Matthew Jones)