First post-handover car bombing kills 10 and injures 40 in Iraq


Thu, Jul 15, 2004 - Page 1

A suspected suicide car bombing killed 10 people and wounded 40 yesterday in the first big terror attack in Baghdad since an interim Iraqi government took over from US-led occupiers on June 28.

"This is naked aggression against the Iraqi people," said Prime Minister Iyad Allawi, standing by burnt-out vehicles near a main entrance to the heavily defended "Green Zone" compound.

"We will bring these criminals to justice," he vowed, adding that seven Iraqi civilians and three National Guardsmen had been killed and 40 people wounded.

Deafened passersby and a man with blood oozing from his chest staggered from the site of the explosion.

"My God, my God," screamed one panicked woman among the scores of workers, visitors and journalists lining up for security checks to get into the US-defended area.

The blast occurred hours after news that Islamist militants led by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi had killed one of two Bulgarian truck drivers held hostage in Iraq. They vowed to kill the second within 24 hours unless US-led forces freed prisoners.

Bulgaria said it would not pull its 470 troops out of Iraq despite the killing of the driver and the plight of the other.

In stark contrast, the Philippines was preparing to withdraw its troops early to save the life of a Filipino hostage, though the military said it had yet to receive clear orders to leave.

"He is safe and there is no more risk of him being executed," said a Foreign Ministry official in Manila, referring to kidnapped truck driver Angelo de la Cruz.

The Baghdad blast occurred in a crowded area where cars queue for access to the sprawling Green Zone beside the Tigris River. It houses government buildings, the US and British embassies, and the offices of many foreign contractors.

The entrance has long been recognized as a potential target for bombers, but despite elaborate fortifications, people forced to wait just outside the zone have remained vulnerable.

"At 9:15am this morning a vehicle pulled into the search lane and tried to get into the control point and detonated," a US officer said. "We're pretty sure it was a suicide bomber. The bomber never got out of the vehicle."

Allawi said he wanted to "assure the international community that we are going forward in building democracy, peace and stability in Iraq."

He said he believed the bomb attack was a response to a crackdown on criminals, referring to police raids that have netted hundreds of suspects in Baghdad this week.

The Green Zone is a favored target for rocket and mortar attacks. In May, a suicide bomber killed the then head of Iraq's now-defunct Governing Council as he entered the compound.