Suicide car bomb blasts Iraq

A suicide car bomber has struck the United States intelligence headquarters in Irbil, Iraq, a Kurdish security official said on Wednesday.

He said three Iraqis were killed, including a 12-year-old boy. Six Americans were wounded, three of them with serious injuries to their abdomen caused by flying glass.

Forty-one Iraqis were hurt, the official said, adding that the suicide bomb vehicle was packed with TNT.
He said several homes in the neighbourhood, which was cordoned off by US soldiers, were destroyed. The official spoke on condition of anonymity.

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

US soldiers at the scene Wednesday refused to give any information. Dozens of what appeared to be Americans in civilian clothes and wearing flak jackets were coming and going from the scene of the blast in GMC four-wheel drive vehicles.

US soldiers had flown to the site by helicopter and were guarding the area together with local Iraqi Kurdish fighters.

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

Staff Sergeant Shane Slaughter, the US military spokesperson in Baghdad, said that the six injured Americans were Department of Defence personnel. He did not say if they were military or civilian.

He said that the military was investigating the bombing, which occurred on Tuesday at 10.05pm. There were no claims of responsibility.

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 in his arms.

The videotape also showed the four-wheel-drive vehicle that apparently carried the bomb was intact but badly burned. Its chassis was in one piece.

Authorities in Irbil, 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 Saddam Hussein.

Near Baghdad, a US 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 US central command said on Wednesday.

The attack occurred at about 5pm on Tuesday, the central command said on a statement posted on its website. The soldiers were from the US Army’s 3rd Corp Support Command, it said. The wounded soldier was evacuated to a field hospital.

For the third time in two weeks, anti-tank rockets were fired at, but missed, the headquarters of Denmark’s 400-man military contingent in southern Iraq, the Danish military said on 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 200m away from the Danish headquarters in Al Qurnah, just north of Basra, early on Wednesday morning.

A pair of Lithuanian soldiers serving with the Danish force fired at the stadium, but no injuries were reported. Lithuania, a Baltic Sea country of 3,5-million residents, 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 United Nations 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 spokesperson 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 reignite 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 US, 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 US-led invasion] can be debated, but that’s in the past now,” said General Hilmi Ozkok, head of the military. “If the US is unsuccessful and there is instability there, this will concern Turkey.”—Sapa-AP

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