Some 20 people killed in massive car bomb attack in Baghdad as 13 wounded in Karbala
A car bomb exploded outside the main entrance to the headquarters of the U.S.-led occupation Sunday, killing at least 23 people, including at least 16 Iraqis and two Americans and injuring at least 95 bystanders, American officials said.
The explosion, caused by a suicide bomber, occurred at about 8 a.m. near the "Assassin's Gate" to Saddam Hussein's former Republican Palace complex, now used by the occupation authority for headquarters.
The 23 dead included 16 Iraqi civilians and two American civilians, the U.S. military press office said, according to The AP. The wounded included 22 Iraqi civilians, four US civilians and two American troops, the press office added.
Brig. Gen. Mark Hertling, deputy commander of the 1st Armored Division, said the blast was caused by a car bomb, and American officials were "assuming this was a suicide bomb." Witnesses said the blast occurred as one, possibly two, Land Cruisers approached the heavily guarded gate.
Police Gen. Hassan al-Obeidi said the blast was caused by a lone suicide driver.
U.S. troops guarding the gate took cover when they saw the vehicle try to move to the front of the line.
At least three separate fires were seen after the blast as US tanks also moved in near the blazes.
Iraqi police declared on loudspeakers that coalition forces will give $2,500 to anyone providing information on the perpetrators.
U.S. administrator L. Paul Bremer, who is in the United States for talks with U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, called the bombing "another clear indication of the murderous and cynical intent of terrorists to undermine freedom, democracy and progress in Iraq. They will not succeed."
"Once again, it is innocent Iraqis who have been murdered by these terrorists in a senseless act of violence," Bremer said in a statement. "Our determination to work for a stable and democratic future for this country is undiminished."
In Tikrit, meanwhile, an explosive device being transported in a car exploded near a U.S. Army patrol, killing two Iraqis in the vehicle, including a relative of Saddam Hussein, the military said Sunday. There were no U.S. casualties.
The blast in a white Mercedes car happened late on Saturday on a street in Saddam's ancestral hometown of Tikrit, said Lt. Col. Steve Russell, commander of the 1st Battalion, 22nd Infantry Regiment of the 4th Infantry Division.
Russell said the car exploded some 150 yards from his patrol, which had pulled to a halt at a shop in downtown Tikrit just minutes earlier to talk to its owner.
"It was not a suicide bombing. It was a failed attempt to attack coalition forces and they [the car’s occupants] killed themselves," Russell said.
U.S. soldiers have been searching for the same vehicle, which is believed to have been involved in several other bombings, including a mid-December blast in Tikrit that wounded three American soldiers.
Russell said one of the two men killed was a nephew of one of Saddam's brothers, and was carrying a homemade bomb comprised of artillery shells and plastic explosives in his lap that detonated prematurely, killing him instantly and fatally wounding the driver.
Meanwhile, a third occupant of the car was taken to a Tikrit hospital in a serious condition and will be questioned by U.S. forces later, Russell said.
Russell believed the men in the car had been tipped off to the presence of U.S. soldiers patrolling in Tikrit, and in their "haste to attack them had detonated the radio-controlled bomb prematurely".
Elsewhere, according to the Qatar-based Al Jazeera station, an explosion in Basra killed two Iraqis and injured two British soldiers on Sunday.
In another bomb blast Sunday near a religious site in the holy city of Karbala in central Iraq, 13 people were injured, one seriously, hospital sources said.
© 2004 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)