Sun, Jul 18, 2004 - Page 1 News List

Bomb kills bodyguards of Iraqi justice minister

AGENCIES , BAGHDAD AND RAMADI, IRAQ, AND RIYADH, SAUDI ARABIA

A car bomb targeting Iraq's new justice minister blew up in western Baghdad yesterday, killing four of his bodyguards and wounding seven other people, authorities said. Justice Minister Malik Dohan al-Hassan was not injured.

The blast, the latest in a wave of assassination attempts of high-level government officials, ripped through an intersection 500m from al-Hassan's home, striking the tail end of his convoy.

"A car was parking on the opposite direction of the road, when the driver, God curse him, saw us and exploded himself," said Loae Hassan, one of his bodyguards.

South of the capital, another car bomb exploded outside an Iraqi National Guard headquarters in Mahmudiyah, 30km from Baghdad, killing two people and wounding 47 others, hospital officials said.

The blast that struck the minister's convoy carved a crater 2m in diameter and half a meter deep into the pavement. Flames lapped the charred skeleton of one car stopped alongside a pylon supporting a bridge.

Hassan said several members of the minister's security detail were killed in the blast that completely destroyed three vehicles in the convoy. Among the dead was the minister's nephew.

Though al-Hassan's bodyguards initially said five people had died, the Health Ministry put the number at four.

Shortly afterward, insurgents lobbed a hand grenade at a police patrol in the same neighborhood, badly injuring two police officers, said police Major Hashim Raed.

Insurgents also shot and killed a Jordanian truck driver in western Iraq yesterday and then gouged out his eyes, leaving his body by the side of the road, witnesses said.

The Philippines withdrew 11 more soldiers from Iraq on Friday to meet the demands of kidnappers holding a truck driver hostage, ignoring warnings from the US that the move sends the wrong signal to terrorists.

An Egyptian hostage being held in Iraq will also be released today, his Saudi employer said yesterday.

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