Tue, Oct 14, 2003 - Page 6 News List

US investigates bombing, soldier killed

RESTIVE IRAQ A landmine damaged a Bradley fighting vehicle as investigators searched for clues in the car-bombing near a hotel in Baghdad that killed 6 people


A US soldier was killed in northern Iraq, as American forces yesterday investigated the second major car bomb in four days, which left at least six people dead in Baghdad and further fueled tension.

The soldier died of his wounds after his Bradley fighting vehicle hit a landmine Sunday night near Baiji, 220km north of Baghdad, a US military spokesman said, adding that another soldier was wounded.

In another violent development, a firefight with US troops early yesterday left one Iraqi dead and three others wounded, including a policeman, near the flashpoint town of Baqubah northeast of Baghdad, police said.

The shootout occurred after US troops arrested 20 people during a house-to-house search in the village of Zagenia, 15km north of Baqubah, a police officer said.

In Baghdad, tension was high following Sunday's car bomb blast that left at least six people dead. US officials were uncertain whether the toll included the suicide bomber who drove the car just past a checkpoint outside the Baghdad Hotel, which houses US security staff and members of the US-backed interim Iraqi Governing Council.

Doctors said 38 people were treated at nearby hospitals and US forces reported 10 serious injuries in the blast outside the central Baghdad hotel.

Police said the car driven by a suicide bomber and another parked outside the hotel blew up simultaneously.

"The driver ignited the bomb and there was an explosion 20m inside the checkpoint and 100m from the hotel," said US Army Colonel Peter Mansoor.

Limbs could be seen scattered some 100m from the site of the explosion, which shattered windows as far as 300m away.

Paul Bremer, the top US official in Iraq, condemned the attack and vowed US-led troops would not be intimidated by "terrorists."

"The terrorists know that the Iraqi people and the coalition are succeeding in the reconstruction of Iraq," Bremer said.

As US forces searched for clues as to who masterminded the deadly attack, security was stepped up in Baghdad and tanks were positioned near the powderkeg Baghdad neighborhood of Sadr City.

The predominantly Shiite area was the site of another car bomb explosion that killed nine people, including the bomber, on Thursday.

The blast occurred at a police station a few hundred meters from the local office of firebrand Shiite cleric Moqtada Sadr. The office condemned the attack and staged a show of force with 200 members of Sadr's Mehdi Army militia parading in the streets of the teeming neighborhood on Thursday.

Later that night, clashes outside Sadr's offices left two residents and two US soldiers dead.

In the six months since US forces seized control of Baghdad and put an end to Saddam Hussein's dictatorship, US soldiers and Iraqi officials have faced daily attacks.

Tension also rose in Fallujah, a flashpoint town 50km west of Baghdad, where US forces yesterday arrested the prayer leader of the Great Mosque, according to a witness.

A US military spokeswoman had no immediate confirmation but said officials were looking into the reports that Sheikh Jamal Shaker Nazzal, 61, had been arrested.

A neighbor of the Great Mosque, Ziad Ismail, 42, said four religious students were arrested alongside Nazzal after US troops searched the mosque for one and a half hours overnight.

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