Suicide blast kills 9 U.S. soldiers
Attack in Diyala province comes same day 5 other explosions kill 46
The Associated Press
Updated: 7:00 p.m. MT April 23, 2007
BAGHDAD - Nine U.S. soldiers were killed and 20 were wounded Monday in a suicide car bombing against a patrol base northeast of Baghdad, the military said.
The attack occurred in Diyala province, a volatile area that has been the site of fierce fighting between U.S. and Iraqi troops, Sunni insurgents and Shiite militias, according to a statement.
The nine Task Force Lightning soldiers died of injuries sustained in the blast, which also left 20 soldiers and an Iraqi civilian wounded, the military said.
Of those wounded, 15 soldiers were treated and returned to duty while five others and the Iraqi civilian were evacuated to a medical facility for further care, it added.
Identities were not released pending notification of relatives.
It was the second bold attack against a U.S. base north of Baghdad in just over two months and was notable for its use of a suicide car bomber.
On Feb. 19, insurgents struck a U.S. combat post in Tarmiyah, about 30 miles north of Baghdad, killing two soldiers and wounding 17 in what the military called a "coordinated attack."
It began with a suicide car bombing, then gunfire on soldiers pinned down in a former Iraqi police station, where fuel storage tanks were set ablaze by the blast.
Militants have mostly used hit-and-run ambushes, roadside bombs or mortars on U.S. troops and stayed away from direct assaults on fortified military compounds to avoid the vastly superior forces of the U.S. Army.
Spate of attacks
Suicide bombers attacked five other locations in Iraq on Monday, killing 46 people and wounding more than 100, officials said as the U.S. ambassador stopped short of saying construction on a controversial wall in Baghdad would be halted.
The deadliest of those suicide attacks occurred near a restaurant on a highway close to Ramadi, 70 miles west of Baghdad, killing at least 19 people and wounding 35, said Ramadi police Maj. Fuad al-Asafia.
U.S. troops raced to the scene, found a pickup truck parked nearby that was loaded with explosives and chlorine powder, and destroyed it in a controlled explosion, al-Asafia said. The soldiers also evacuated the wounded.
The restaurant, located in a complex of shops, was heavily damaged, along with some of the stores, police said.
"It is horrible seeing people killed and their shops destroyed in such attacks," said Kamal Mohammed, whose car parts store was not damaged. "We want to live in peace. We want to earn a living."
About an hour earlier, a suicide car bomb targeting a police checkpoint exploded in Ramadi at 1:15 p.m., wounding three policemen and four civilians, including a child.
Ramadi, the capital of Anbar province, has long been a magnet for Sunni insurgents and a lawless haven for al-Qaida militants, but the U.S. military recently reported progress in securing the city with the arrest or killing of over two hundred insurgents and Al-Qaida militants over the past month.
Mostly Christian town hit by bombing
Monday's first suicide car bomb attack occurred near the northern city of Mosul at 10:10 a.m. when a man detonated his car in front of an office of the Kurdistan Democratic Party of Massoud Barzani, leader of the autonomous Kurdish region in Iraq, an official with the group said. At least 10 people were killed and 20 wounded in the attack in Tal Uskuf, a town nine miles north of Mosul, said Abdul-Ghani Ali, a KDP official.
Ghanim Hazim, 37, a shop owner in Tal Uskuf, said dozens of people rushed past his store to the site of the blast to help the wounded, who "were screaming and asking for help as they lay buried under big pieces of debris."
He said residents of the predominantly Christian town were in deep shock because it was the first terrorist attack in their tight-knit community since the Iraq war started.
"This attack shows that no place in Iraq is free from the terrorists and their evil deeds," Hazim said in an interview as firefighters and police began removing the dead and wounded.
In two separate shootings in Mosul on Monday, suspected insurgents assassinated a local KDP official in a drive-by-shooting and a policeman who was ambushed while driving near his home, officials said.
A suicide car bomber also struck a police station in Baqouba, 35 miles northeast of Baghdad, killing at least 10 people and wounding 23, police said. The fatalities included Brig. Gen. Safa al-Tamimi, a city police commander.
In central Baghdad, a bomber wearing an explosives belt blew himself up in an Iraqi restaurant in the mixed Shiite-Sunni neighborhood of Karradah Mariam, killing at least seven people and wounding 16, police said.
The attack occurred less than 100 yards outside the heavily fortified Green Zone, home to the U.S. and British embassies and the Iraqi government's headquarters.
At the time, Ryan Crocker, who became the new U.S. ambassador in Iraq about a month ago, was giving a news conference in the Green Zone.
Two parked car bombs also exploded outside the Iranian Embassy in Baghdad, killing two civilians, and a drive-by shooting wounded two guards at Tunisia's Embassy in the capital, police said.
The Iranian Embassy also is located in Karradah Mariam.
At the news conference, Crocker responded after Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki on Sunday blocked the building of a barrier in the Azamiyah neighborhood.
â€œObviously we will respect the wishes of the government and the prime minister,â€ Crocker said. â€œIâ€™m not sure where we are right now concerning our discussions on how to move forward on this particular issue.â€
But he defended the principle behind the Azamiyah barrier, saying it was aimed at protecting the community, not segregating it.
Crocker, who replaced Zalmay Khalilzad as ambassador, said â€œthese months ahead are going to be criticalâ€ and he urged Iraqi legislators to pass key legislation that it is hoped will help bring minority Sunnis into the political process.
He said the security plan was important but its main purpose was to â€œbuy time for what ultimately has to be a set of political understandings among Iraqis.
â€œClearly the road is going to be a tough one,â€ he said. â€œItâ€™s going to be very, very difficult, but I certainly believe success is possible otherwise I wouldnâ€™t be standing here.â€
As he spoke, hundreds of Iraqis took to the streets in the area in northern Baghdad to protest the wallâ€™s construction, which residents have complained would isolate them from the rest of the city.
Crocker said the intention of the barrier in Azamiyah as well as those constructed around markets in the capital is â€œto try and identify where the fault lines are and where avenues of attack lie and set up the barriers literally to prevent those attacks.â€
â€œIt is in no oneâ€™s intention or thinking that this is going to be a permanent state of affairs,â€ he added.
Al-Maliki said he has ordered a halt to the U.S. military construction of the barrier Sunday in Cairo, Egypt, as he began a regional tour to shore up support from mostly Sunni Arab nations for his Shiite-dominated government.
The U.S. military announced last week that it was building a three-mile long and 12-foot tall concrete wall in Azamiyah, a Sunni stronghold whose residents have often been the victims of retaliatory mortar attacks by Shiite militants following bombings usually blamed on Sunni insurgents.
U.S. and Iraqi officials defended plans for the barrier as an effort to protect the neighborhood, but residents and Sunni leaders complained it was a form of discrimination that would isolate the community.
U.S. military spokesman Lt. Col. Christopher Garver declined to comment on whether construction of the wall would stop, saying only that all security measures were constantly under discussion.
â€œWe will coordinate with the Iraqi government and Iraqi commanders in order to establish effective, appropriate security measures,â€ he said.
The Sunni Iraqi Islamic Party had denounced the wallâ€™s construction earlier Sunday.
â€œIsolating parts of Baghdad with barbed wire and concrete barriers will inflict social and economic damage and it will lead to more sectarian tension,â€ it said. â€œThis measure will harm the residents and it will have a negative impact on the areas instead of solving the problems.â€
Aides to al-Sadr, who had been a key al-Maliki backer but has since withdrawn his support, also criticized the barrier as an â€œunacceptableâ€ move by the United States, saying they feared Shiite areas in Baghdad like Sadr City would be next.