A suicide bomber blew up a car packed with explosives at the gates of a military barracks early yesterday, injuring 41 American troops and six Iraqi civilians. Hours earlier, three soldiers died in a road accident in central Iraq, and three civilians died when a Baghdad mosque was rocketed.
The attack at the army base occurred at 4:45am local time when a car drove to the gate of the base in the town of Talafar, 50km west of the northern city of Mosul.
Guards at the gate and in a watchtower opened fire on the vehicle and moments later it blew up. The bomb left a large crater at the gate's entryway.
Colonel Michael Linnington, commander of the 3rd Brigade which controls the area west of Mosul and all the way to the Syrian border, said the attack was a suicide mission and that the attacker's remains were "all over the compound."
"Right now we have four soldiers that were evacuated and are being treated for blast injuries. In addition, 37 soldiers have nicks, cuts, bruises and some broken bones," he said. A base translator was also injured in the blast, which damaged nearby homes. Several other civilians, including a two-year-old girl, were hurt by flying glass.
The early morning blast occurred when most soldiers were still in their barracks, and there was no traffic around the gate.
Pieces of the attacker's car were scattered hundreds of meters away from the site of the blast. A school across the street from the military compound was heavily damaged, but no pupils were injured because the bomb exploded before classes began. At a nearby mosque, glass was scattered on the carpets and some lights were blown out.
Hazem Ismail, a 40-year-old school teacher, said several pieces of the car hit his house, shattering the window of a room where his five children were sleeping.
"The kids woke up terrified from their beds, but thank God none of them were harmed," he said.
Meanwhile, three US soldiers died and one was injured when an embankment collapsed beneath their armored personnel carriers north of Baghdad, the military said yesterday.
"The accident was not a result of hostile action," Lieutenant Colonel William Macdonald said.
The soldiers belonged to the 2nd Infantry Division's 3rd Brigade, he said.
The deaths bring to 448 the number of US soldiers who have died in Iraq since the US-led invasion on March 20. Of those, 308 have died as a result of hostile action. The British military has reported 52 deaths; Italy, 17; Spain, eight; Denmark, Ukraine and Poland have reported one each.
In Baghdad, three people were killed and two injured early yesterday when a missile exploded in the courtyard of a mosque in the capital's western Hurriyah district, police said.
Ahmed Hussein, the mosque's prayer leader, said the explosion occurred at 6:45am and that it damaged the building and several cars parked nearby.
"Those who carried out the attack have nothing to do with any religion," said Farouk Khamis, the mosque's imam. "They are ordinary criminals who targeted believers doing their prayers."
Increased concerns about security have already prompted an exodus of international aid organizations and foreign diplomats.
Yesterday, guards at the embassy of Bangladesh in Baghdad said the ambassador and his four-member staff had left the country.
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