Market explosion kills 8 Iraqis
BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) — An explosion at a market outside Baghdad killed eight Iraqis and wounded another 13 Thursday, hours after a bomb damaged an NBC News office and a member of the U.S.-appointed government died from wounds received in an ambush five days ago.
In the north, eight American soldiers were wounded — including three seriously — when their convoy was ambushed with roadside bombs and small-arms fire in Mosul, Iraq’s third-largest city.
The market in Baqubah, about 30 miles north of Baghdad, was believed to have been struck by a mortar, U.S. military spokesman Sgt. Danny Martin said.
A bomb damaged a hotel housing the offices of NBC News, raising fears of attacks against international media. A Somali guard was killed and an NBC sound engineer was slightly wounded in the early-morning explosion at the small al-Aike Hotel in the city’s fashionable Karrada district.
Meanwhile, a member of Iraq’s Governing Council, Aquila al-Hashimi, died from wounds suffered when she was ambushed by six men in a pickup truck near her Baghdad home. This was the first time violence claimed the life of a member of the U.S.-appointed administration.
The tenuous security situation prompted U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan to order a further reduction in U.N. international staff in Iraq after two bombings at U.N. headquarters, including one on Aug. 19 that killed 22 people.
And the commander of U.S. forces in Iraq, Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, warned he would use whatever force necessary to defeat those who attack American soldiers.
But use of force has led to “friendly fire” deaths in Iraq.
Yesterday, the military said U.S. soldiers shot and killed two Iraqi policemen in Fallujah on Aug. 9.
Col. Bill Darley, a spokesman with coalition joint task force, told The Associated Press that an Army investigation found that the soldiers acted in accordance with the rules of engagement. He identified the soldiers as members of the 1st Battalion, 41st Infantry, part of the 1st Armored Division’s 3rd Brigade.
Darley did not give further details.
On Sept. 12, U.S. soldiers killed eight Iraqi policemen and a Jordanian hospital guard near Fallujah. The police were chasing a car known to have been involved in highway banditry.
Al-Hashimi, one of three women on the 25-member Governing Council and the leading candidate to become Iraq’s ambassador to the United Nations, died in a U.S. military hospital five days after being ambushed by six men in a pickup truck near her Baghdad home. She was to have attended the annual meeting of the U.N. General Assembly in New York this week.
It was the first attack on a member of the ruling council since it was appointed in July by the U.S. administrator for Iraq, L. Paul Bremer. Al-Hashimi, who will be buried Friday, came from a prominent Shiite Muslim family and served in the Foreign Ministry during Saddam Hussein’s regime.
Al-Hashimi, 50 and unmarried, was the only official of the ousted regime appointed to the new leadership. The current council president, Ahmad Chalabi, blamed the attack on Saddam loyalists; no arrests have been made.
The council declared three days of mourning and said al-Hashimi “fell as a martyr on the path of freedom and democracy to build this great nation. She died at the hands of a clique of infidels and cunning people who only know darkness.”
Arab League spokesman Hisham Youssef said assassinations “will never improve the situation in Iraq or achieve any results.”
The explosion at the al-Aike Hotel raised fears that insurgents may also begin targeting international media, although U.S. officials said it was unclear whether NBC was the focus. NBC correspondent Jim Avila said there were no signs on the three-story building indicating NBC had quarters there. A dozen NBC staffers were in the building when the explosion took place.
The bomb exploded about 7 a.m. next to the hotel in a small hut housing the generator, killing the Somali night watchman as he slept and wounding Canadian sound engineer David Moodie.
“I was awake,” said Moodie, who received a deep cut from flying glass. “A chest of drawers in the room fell on me. I sleep in the room immediately above the generator, so I guess I was lucky.”
None of NBC’s 11 employees in Baghdad was leaving, said David Verdi, executive director of NBC News. The network was searching for a new headquarters, and will likely land at either the Sheraton or Palestine hotel, he said.
The al-Aike Hotel was a concrete structure, providing protection against gunshots, but close to the street, Verdi said. The Sheraton is more protected but has a lot of glass, he said.
“There are no safe places because everything has something that makes it vulnerable,” he said.
An ABC News spokesman, Jeffrey Schneider, said the NBC attack “gives us all grave concern.” Nervous about security, ABC wouldn’t say where its staff was located in Baghdad or even how many were there.
Coalition forces toppled the regime in April but have been facing a guerrilla-style insurgency, especially in areas dominated by the minority Sunni Muslim community. President Bush declared an end to major combat on May 1; since then, 85 Americans and 12 Britons have been killed in hostile encounters.
Concern over security was behind Annan’s decision to pare down U.N. staff even as major countries urge a greater role for the world body in Iraq’s reconstruction.