Wed, Aug 16, 2006 - Page 7 News List

Mosul truck bomb kills five

RIVAL ACCOUNTS US and Iraqi officials are disputing the cause of and number of casualties from huge explosions in a Shiite area of Baghdad on Sunday


suicide bomber yesterday exploded a truck rigged with a bomb outside the Iraqi president's party headquarters in a northern city, killing five people and wounding 15, police said.

The explosion occurred in the car park of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan party of President Jalal Talabani in Mosul, police Colonel Abdul-Kareem Ahmed al-Jibouri said.

He said the blast damaged the one-story building, killing five people and setting alight five cars.

The 15 injured people were taken to the Mosul General Hospital, he said.

Meanwhile, a deadly series of explosions in a Shiite neighborhood of Baghdad triggered a new battle -- between the US military and the Iraqis over what caused the blasts.

The number of casualties also was in dispute.

A US military spokesman on Monday blamed Sunday evening's explosions in Zafraniyah on a gas line explosion that he said set off secondary blasts and devastated the working class district on the southeastern edge of the city.

But Iraqi police and Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki said the neighborhood was hit by car bombs and a rocket barrage, which the Interior Ministry said was unleashed from a Sunni neighborhood that US troops have targeted in their security crackdown.

"The terrorists planned this ugly crime so that it would inflict maximum harm on innocent civilians, and this is proof of their deep-rooted hatred for Iraq and their attempt to incite sectarianism," al-Maliki said.

It was impossible to determine who was right.

The Iraqis may have spoken too quickly to score public relations points by blaming government opponents. And the US has long been reluctant to acknowledge that sectarian hatred threaten to plunge the country into all-out civil war. Each side insisted its interpretation of Sunday's events was correct.

US ordnance teams went to Zafraniyah and found "no evidence" of anything other than a "significant gas explosion," US military spokesman Major General William Caldwell said.

"If in fact there had been a hole in the ground, there would be some residue from a Katyusha rocket if one had been fired there," he told reporters, adding that US experts are "fairly good" at determining the cause of an explosion.

Interior Ministry spokesman Colonel Saddoun Abu al-Ula said Iraqi experts had examined the area and concluded the explosions were caused by car bombs and rockets fired from the mostly Sunni neighborhood of Dora.

"From the extent of the damage and some of the remains, it is clear that the explosions were caused by bombs and rockets," he said.

"What the Americans are saying is not correct. Maybe they are trying not to shoulder responsibility because the rockets were fired from Dora where there is heavy US deployment," he said.

Adding to the uncertainty, a Sunni extremist group claimed responsibility for the blasts, saying in an Internet statement that it blew up two car bombs and fired 120mm mortar shells to punish Shiites for "killing unarmed Sunnis" and cooperating with the US.

While the Iraqis agreed that the blasts were due to an attack, they didn't agree on how many people were killed or injured.

Defense Ministry spokesman Mohammed Askari said 27 people died and 100 were wounded.

The prime minister's office put the death toll at 47, while a member of the Baghdad city council told state television that 76 people were killed.

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