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Car Bomb Hits U.S. Intelligence HQ in Iraq

A suicide car bomber struck the U.S. intelligence headquarters in Irbil, a Kurdish security official told The Associated Press today. He said three Iraqis and the bomber were killed. One of the dead was a 12-year-old boy. The U.S. military in Baghdad said four "Defence Human Intelligence Service" officers were wounded along with a Kurdish peshmerga guard at the building.
Sep. 10, 2003. 09:41 AM

Iraqi suicide attacker hits U.S. intelligence HQ
Three killed, six wounded in attack, witnesses say


IRBIL, Iraq - A suicide car bomber struck the U.S. intelligence headquarters here, a Kurdish security official told The Associated Press today. He said three Iraqis and the bomber were killed. One of the dead was a 12-year-old boy.

The U.S. military in Baghdad said four "Defence Human Intelligence Service" officers were wounded along with a Kurdish peshmerga guard at the building.

The Kurdish official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said three of the wounded Americans suffered serious abdominal injuries from flying glass and were airlifted by helicopter to a U.S. military hospital.

The official said the attack was the work of Al Qaeda. He gave no reason for that assessment, but said he was certain Osama bin Laden's organization was behind the attack.

The Ansar al-Islam terrorist organization, with suspected ties to Al Qaeda, was formerly based near Sulaymaniyah, about 50 kilometres east of Irbil and near the Iranian border.

Ansar headquarters was bombed by U.S. jets during the war and was captured by a joint U.S.-Kurdish force. Surviving members of the group were thought to have fled to Iran, but they are now believed to have returned to Iraq.

Forty-one Iraqis were hurt, the Kurdish official said, adding that the suicide bomb vehicle was packed with TNT. The neighbourhood was cordoned off by U.S. soldiers.

In west Baghdad, a U.S. soldier from the 1st Armoured Division was killed Wednesday trying to detonate a roadside bomb, the military said.

The victim was part of an explosive ordnance detonating team that had tried to blow up the bomb by shooting it with a .50-calibre machine-gun on a Bradley fighting vehicle. The bomb did not explode when fired at, but subsequently blew up as the soldier went to inspect it.

The soldier's death was the second in as many days after an eight-day stretch when no Americans were reported to have died.

At about 5 p.m. Tuesday a soldier was killed and one was wounded when a homemade bomb exploded near a military vehicle on a supply route northeast of the capital, the U.S. Central Command said Wednesday.

Those soldiers were from the U.S. army's 3rd Corp Support Command, the military said. The wounded soldier was evacuated to a field hospital.

A witness to the Irbil attack, Jafar Marouf, a 31-year-old teacher, was visiting a friend Tuesday night on the quiet residential street when he saw a white four-wheel-drive approach quickly and then explode with the driver inside. Marouf, who was slightly injured, spoke with the AP in the hospital.

U.S. soldiers at the scene Wednesday refused to give any information. Dozens of people who appeared to be Americans in civilian clothes and wearing flak jackets were coming and going from the scene.

U.S. soldiers flew to the site by helicopter and guarded the area with local Iraqi Kurdish fighters.

The Kurdish security official said U.S. intelligence officers worked in the bombed building, with some of the top officers also sleeping there. Others had quarters in two villas about 500 metres down the street.

"It was a blasphemy to put their base in a civilian neighbourhood," said Najib Abdullah, 50, the manager of a gas station nearby. He said he was in his office counting the day's proceeds when the blast occurred.

"The whole neighbourhood shook. Chunks of concrete were falling from the sky," he said.

The wounded included children from nearby houses and Iraqi Kurdish guards. Irbil is the largest city in Kurdish-controlled northern Iraq.

Television pictures from Tuesday night showed Kurdish women wailing and men running in panic with a burning car behind them. A Kurdish man could be seen carrying a toddler with a bleeding head.

The videotape also showed the vehicle that apparently carried the bomb. It was intact but badly burned.

Authorities in Irbil, about 320 kilometres north of Baghdad, called to residents over loudspeakers to donate blood for the wounded, CNN-Turk television said Tuesday night.

Northern Iraq has been the most stable part of the country since the ouster of deposed president Saddam Hussein.

For the third time in two weeks, anti-tank rockets were fired at, but missed, the headquarters Denmark's 400-man military contingent in southern Iraq, the Danish military said Wednesday.

No one was injured in the failed attack, Denmark's Army Operational Command said.

Between three and four rockets were believed to have been fired from a soccer stadium about 200 metres away from the Danish headquarters in Al Qurnah, just north of Basra, early Wednesday.

A pair of Lithuanian soldiers serving with the Danish force fired at the stadium, but no injuries were reported. Lithuania has 43 soldiers serving with Danish soldiers.

On Tuesday, Iraq's acting president called for Turkey to send as many as 10,000 peacekeeping troops under a UN mandate, providing they are deployed in the far west of the country away from Kurdish territory.

The invitation contradicts Hoshyar Zebari, Iraq's new foreign minister and a member of the Kurdish minority, who has said neighbouring countries should not send peacekeepers.

Entifadh Kanbar, the spokesman for Ahmad Chalabi, the member of the Governing Council's nine-member presidency who is serving for September, also announced that Chalabi had been invited by the Turkish government to pay "a very important visit."

"We are welcoming the participation of Turkish forces under the United Nations resolution ... in the western area in Iraq under the condition that this force should not exceed 10,000," Kanbar said.

A Turkish force in Iraq is an extremely sensitive issue because of the large Kurdish population near the Turkish border, where some Kurdish rebels took refuge in the remote mountains after fighting a 15-year rebellion in Turkey.

An estimated 37,000 people died in that fighting, and Turkey is concerned that instability in Iraq could re-ignite the war. Turks and Kurds have a centuries-old animosity.

Turkey also is worried the Iraqi Kurds may be trying to carve out a separate homeland in northern Iraq that could inspire Turkish Kurds.

Turks overwhelmingly opposed the war in Iraq and many question whether their soldiers should risk dying for a mission they largely don't support. The government is weighing a request to parliament to send troops, under heavy pressure from the United States, but is keenly aware that such a move could divide the ruling party and threaten the government's stability.

Yet the influential Turkish military supports sending a force.

"The legitimacy (of the U.S.-led invasion) can be debated, but that's in the past now," said Gen. Hilmi Ozkok, head of the military. "If the United States is unsuccessful and there is instability there, this will concern Turkey."

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