Italian Capitulators Learn to Stop boot-licking US Imperialism the Hard way. 25 Dead!
Bomb Kills 25 at Italian Base in Iraq
Bomb Kills 25 at Italian Base in Iraq
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By SLOBODAN LEKIC, Associated Press Writer
NASIRIYAH, Iraq - A tanker truck packed with explosives smashed into the Italian paramilitary installation in Nasiriyah Wednesday and exploded in a ball of flame, killing at least 25 people in the deadliest attack against U.S. coalition partners since the occupation of Iraq (news - web sites) began. Later on Wednesday, the sound of strong but distant explosions rumbled through the center of the Iraqi capital after sundown, but it was unclear where the blasts occurred.
Up to a dozen strong detonations were heard about 9:15 p.m. but appeared to be centered away from the heart of the city.
Two mortars exploded late Tuesday in the U.S.-controlled compound, known as the green zone, but caused no casualties.
The Nasiriyah cattack was the first in this relatively quiet Shiite Muslim city since the occupation began in May and appeared to send a message that international organizations are not safe anywhere in Iraq.
Col. Gianfranco Scalas said 17 Italians were killed: 11 Carabinieri paramilitary police, four army soldiers, an Italian civilian working at the base and an Italian documentary filmmaker. A spokesman for the U.S.-led coalition said at least eight Iraqis also died.
Seventy-nine people were injured, including 20 Italians, hospital sources and Italian officials said. It was Italy's single worst military loss since World War II and its first in the Iraq campaign.
There were conflicting accounts of the attack, which took place about 10:40 a.m. at a three-story building used by the Carabinieri's multinational specialist unit.
Witnesses said the attackers used a decoy car to distract guards in front of a roadblock near the building. An Italian official said gunmen in a second vehicle fired at the Italian guards while the suicide driver plowed through the gate and detonated his vehicle.
It was the 13th vehicle bombing in Iraq since Aug. 7, when a car exploded outside the Jordanian Embassy in Baghdad, killing at least 19 people including two children. A truck bomb devastated the United Nations (news - web sites) headquarters at Baghdad's Canal Hotel, killing 23 people, including U.N. special representative Sergio Vieira de Mello.
The explosion shattered all three stories of the building and set fire to cars parked nearby. Secondary explosions from ammunition stored in the building shook the area.
The attack stunned Italians, whose government supported the war but whose people largely opposed it. Italians left flowers for the fallen troops; at Rome's tomb of the unknown soldier, the green-white-and-red flag rippled at half staff; parliament held a minute of silence.
Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi pledged that Italy would not be discouraged from its mission in Iraq. But opposition leaders — offering strong condolences at a time of national mourning — subtly began to question the direction of the U.S.-led occupation.
"They go in thinking they can help bring peace, but they end up dead," said 26-year-old Silvano Larice, as he gazed up at a lowered Italian flag. "It's not right. It makes no sense."
Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi pledged that the devastation in Nasiriyah 180 miles southeast of Baghdad, would not derail his country's commitment to helping Iraq. Jalal Talabani, the head of the Iraqi Governing Council, called the slain Italian soldiers "martyrs of the fight for the freedom of Iraq."
The front of the three-story building collapsed in the blast, which gouged a 6-feet-deep crater in the ground. The scorched, twisted remains of military jeeps littered the parking lot.
The bomb was estimated to have some 650 pounds of explosives.
At nightfall, bulldozers cleared rubble from the site. Chunks of concrete and wiring hung from partly destroyed walls.
"This is terrorism, pure and simple," Col. Scalas said as he gazed at the partially collapsed building.
Initial reports said that several Italians might have been trapped in the wreckage, but rescue efforts were called off at night.
Witnesses said the decoy car ran through a roadblock in front of a square where the Italian barracks was located. Guards opened fire but as the vehicle sped away, the fuel tanker approached from the opposite direction and rammed into the gate of the building before exploding.
Italian Defense Minister Antonio Martino said that the truck, followed by an armored car, approached the compound at high speed. Gunmen inside one of the vehicles opened fire at Italian troops guarding the entrance, he said. The guards returned fire, but the vehicle plowed through the gate, and then exploded, he added.
Coalition spokesman Andrea Angeli said the blast was of such force that it blew out windows in another building across the Euphrates River. All the vehicles parked outside the building exploded in flames.
Secondary explosions from ammunition stored in the compound shook the area moments after the main blast.
The latest attack took place shortly before President George W. Bush (news - web sites) met with his top foreign advisers and chief Iraq administrator L. Paul Bremer to discuss the deteriorating security situation and the impasse in drafting a new Iraqi constitution.
A CIA (news - web sites) report warned that Iraqis were losing faith in the U.S.-led forces, which is increasing support for the insurgents.
The talks came as Iraqi insurgents have been stepping up their attacks and U.S. and Iraqi leaders appear to be making no progress in drafting a new constitution for Iraq.
White House press secretary Scott McClellan said the White House expressed the Bush administration's condolences to Italy.
"We appreciate leadership of Berlusconi and the solidarity of Italy in standing with the United States and the rest of the coalition in the war against terrorism," he said.
Italy has sent about 2,300 troops to help rebuild Iraq. About 340 Carabinieri are based in Nasiriyah, along with 110 Romanians. There were no reports of Romanians injured in the attack.
Carabinieri are paramilitary police under the Defense Ministry, and have serve in Afghanistan (news - web sites) and the Balkans.
Since August, insurgents have attacked several buildings with car or truck bombs. The most devastating attack against the international presence was the Aug. 19 truck bombing of the U.N. headquarters in Baghdad that left 23 people dead, including the top U.N. envoy to Iraq, Sergio Vieira de Mello.
In other incidents:
_U.S. troops in Baghdad Wednesday accidentally fired on a car carrying Mohammed Bahr al-Uloun, a member of the Iraqi Governing Council, wounding his driver.
_U.S. troops opened fire on a truck Tuesday night carrying live chickens to the restive town of Fallujah, killing five civilians, relatives of the slain men said. The U.S. military said it had no immediate information on the shootings.
_An American soldier was killed when a roadside bomb exploded near a U.S. patrol by the town of Taji northwest of Baghdad, the U.S. military said.
_A 1st Armored Division soldier died of wounds suffered in a roadside bombing in Baghdad.
The deaths bring to 153 the number of U.S. soldiers killed by hostile fire since President Bush declared an end to active combat May 1.
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