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Baghdad bombings kill 34 children
Updated: 2004-09-30 22:41

At least three bombs exploded near a U.S. convoy in western Baghdad on Thursday, killing 34 children and three adults, a hospital official said. Hours earlier, a suicide car bombing killed a U.S. soldier and two Iraqis on the capital's outskirts.

It was unclear if the bombs — which also wounded 137 people, including 10 U.S. soldiers — targeted the convoy or a ceremony marking the opening of a new sewage system in the neighborhood that was taking place at the same time. Also unknown was the nationalities of the casualties or whether there were U.S. soldiers among the dead.

Women cry as they await for news of the fate of their children, outside Yarmouk hospital, after two car bombs and a roadside bomb went off in succession at al-Amel neighborhood of Baghdad, Iraq, Thursday Sept. 30, 2004. [Reuters]

A U.S. helicopter evacuated some of the wounded while other aircraft circled overhead, an Associated Press photographer reported from the scene. U.S. forces sealed off the area.

In the northern city of Tal Afar, meanwhile, a car bomb targeting the police chief killed at least four people and wounded 16, Iraqi and U.S. officials said. A police officer speaking on condition of anonymity said the police chief, whose name was only given as Col. Ismail, escaped the assassination attempt.

There were conflicting accounts about what caused the blast. Military spokeswoman Capt. Angela Bowman said it was a car bomb, but police in nearby Mosul said it was a device planted in the road.

Also Thursday, the Arab news network Al-Jazeera showed video of 10 new hostages seized in Iraq by militants. Al-Jazeera said the 10 — six Iraqis, two Lebanese and two Indonesian women — were taken by The Islamic Army in Iraq. The group has claimed responsibility for seizing two French journalists last month.

A Lebanese official later said kidnappers had released one Lebanese captive, although it was not clear if he was among the 10.

Interior Ministry spokesman Col. Adnan Abdul-Rahman said two car bombs and a roadside bomb exploded in swift succession as the convoy was passing. The attack occurred about 1 p.m. in the al-Amel neighborhood, said Lt. Col. Jim Hutton, spokesman for the U.S. 1st Cavalry Division.

Yarmouk Hospital received 37 bodies — including those of 34 children — and 127 wounded, said Dr. Nibras Hamdan. Hutton said 10 American soldiers were among the wounded.

Resident Samir Abul-Karim said the attack happened during a ceremony marking the opening of a new sewage system in the neighborhood. Body parts were strewn in the streets amid pools of blood, and a U.S. helicopter evacuated some of the wounded while others circled.

Hours earlier, a suicide car bomber struck in the Abu Ghraib area outside of Baghdad, killing the American and at least two Iraqis, and wounding 60, said Dr. Abbas al-Timimi. Three of the wounded were U.S. troops, said Maj. Philip Smith, spokesman for the U.S. 1st Cavalry Division.

That bomb targeted a compound housing the mayor's office, a police station and other buildings, police 1st Lt. Ahmed Jawad said. A U.S. Bradley fighting vehicle parked in front of the compound was hit, he said.

Elsewhere on the outskirts of Baghdad, insurgents fired a rocket Thursday at a logistical support area for coalition forces, killing one soldier and wounding seven, the military said in a statement. No further information was disclosed — including whether or not it was a U.S. soldier.

Meanwhile Thursday, the United States targeted a suspected terrorist safehouse in Fallujah, killing at least four Iraqis. The military said intelligence reports indicated the house was being used by followers of Jordanian terror mastermind Abu Musab al-Zarqawi to plan attacks against U.S.-led forces and Iraqi citizens.

"Significant secondary explosions were observed during the impact, indicating a large cache of illegal ordinance was stored in the safehouse," the statement said. Explosions continued for hours.

At least four Iraqis were killed — including two women and one child — and eight were wounded, said Dr. Ahmed Khalil of the Fallujah General Hospital. Witnesses said two houses were flattened and four others damaged in the strike.

American jets, tanks and artillery units repeatedly have targeted al-Zarqawi's network in Fallujah in recent weeks as U.S.-led forces seek to assert control over insurgent enclaves ahead of elections slated for January. The military says the attacks have inflicted significant damage on the network, which has claimed responsibility for a series of bombings, kidnappings and other attacks.

Doctors say scores of civilians have been killed and wounded in the strikes.

Zarqawi's group, Tawhid and Jihad, has claimed responsibility for several beheadings and kidnappings. On Wednesday, video surfaced of British hostage Kenneth Bigley, believed held by Zarqawi's group, pleading for help between the bars of a makeshift cage.

The new footage, first broadcast on the Arab news network Al-Jazeera and then posted on the Internet, showed Bigley begging British Prime Minister Tony Blair to meet his captors' demands.

"Tony Blair, I am begging you for my life," the 62-year-old Bigley said between sobs. "Have some compassion. Only you can help me now."

He accused Blair of lying about efforts to secure his release, saying no negotiations were taking place.

"My life is cheap. He doesn't care about me. I am just one person," the civil engineer said. "I want to go home. Please, Mr. Blair, don't leave me here."

Britain's foreign secretary, Jack Straw, said Thursday that Britain will not pay a ransom or meet any political demands to secure Bigley's release. His captors have demanded all female prisoners in Iraq be freed, but the United States says only two are in custody and there are no plans to free them.

"Of course it's very difficult for the Bigley family," Straw told British Broadcasting Corp. TV, speaking of the government's refusal to negotiate with the hostage-takers.

But he added: "If we did not have this position there would be many, many more people who would be kidnapped, and the world would be less safe."

The tape was the second in a week to surface showing Bigley appealing for help. Tawhid and Jihad beheaded two American hostages seized with him Sept. 16 and warned he will be the next to die unless its demands are met.

More than 140 foreigners have been kidnapped in Iraq and at least 26 have been killed. Some, like Bigley, were seized by insurgents as leverage in their campaign against the United States and its allies. But others were taken by criminals seeking ransom.

The Al-Jazeera video of the latest hostages showed three captives, who were not identified, and two masked gunmen pointing weapons at them. There was no mention of demands by the militants or when or where they were captured. The network said the 10 were employees of the Jib electricity company.

Gen. Hussein Ali Kamal, Iraq's deputy interior minister in charge of intelligence, later confirmed that two Lebanese had been kidnapped along with a group of others that included women. He had no other details.

The Frenchmen, Christian Chesnot and Georges Malbrunot, disappeared Aug. 20 during a trip to the southern Iraqi city of Najaf. The Islamic Army in Iraq demanded that France revoke a new law banning Islamic head scarves from state schools.

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