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New suicide bombing hits Baghdad checkpoint
Updated: 2004-12-14 17:10

A suicide car bomber struck an entrance to Baghdad's Green Zone government compound on Tuesday, 24 hours after an almost identical attack at the same checkpoint on the first anniversary of Saddam Hussein's arrest.

Hospital staff said 12 civilians were wounded, five of them seriously. Some of the wounded spoke of others blown to pieces.

No Americans were hurt, a U.S. military spokesman said.

In the Sunni city of Falluja, two U.S. Marines were killed, taking the death toll to 10 in three days among the force dealing with an upsurge in fighting there.

A U.S. offensive last month has turned it into a virtual ghost town but hundreds of guerrillas are again fighting, prompting U.S. aircraft to bomb the city.

New clashes broke out in Falluja on Tuesday.

"I saw a Kia car drive through the checkpoint and it exploded," said bus driver Mohammed Kathem as he lay wounded at the civilian Yarmuk hospital after the Green Zone bombing.

"Two of the people standing next to me were killed. I saw them cut to pieces," said another wounded man, Feras Saher, a labourer who was lining up to go into work in the Green Zone.

At the scene, mangled wreckage littered the area in front of a gate into the sprawling Green Zone compound, which was once Saddam's presidential palace. It now houses the U.S.-backed interim government and the U.S. and other embassies.

Green Zone checkpoints have been a frequent target of Sunni insurgents opposed to the U.S. occupation.

Monday's bomb, which a hospital official said killed nine people, was claimed by Jordanian al Qaeda ally Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. Nineteen were wounded, and Iraq's interim president said the attack was aimed at disrupting a national election planned for Jan. 30.

Close to the checkpoint is a recruiting center for the Iraqi National Guard, a force Washington hopes will relieve its troops of policing Iraq eventually, after the election. U.S. soldiers have handed many frontline checkpoint duties to the Guards.

Essan Nasser, an official who keeps patient records at the Yarmuk hospital, told Reuters that 12 people, all men, had been brought in wounded and there were no bodies.

The blast shook Baghdad at 8:20 a.m. (0520 GMT), sending up a cloud of smoke, just as people were going to work and lining up to get into the Green Zone in cars.

Monday's attack, at 9 a.m., came on the first anniversary of Saddam's capture by U.S. troops.

The two Marines killed in action on Monday died in Baghdad province, which stretches to within about 15 km (10 miles) of the outskirts of Falluja.

The U.S. military gave no details of the incident beyond saying they were from the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force.

In all 10 Marines from the force, which mainly operates around Falluja and the restive Sunni Arab city of Ramadi, further to the west of Baghdad, have been killed since Saturday.

The Marines have given no details of where the 10 died but there has been an upsurge of fighting in Falluja. The city has been a virtual ghost town since U.S. troops stormed Iraq's main insurgent bastion last month but some fighters are again active.

After a Marine was killed on Saturday in Anbar province, which includes Falluja and Ramadi, seven died there on Sunday in two incidents -- the heaviest U.S. daily death toll since mid-November when the offensive in Falluja was in full swing.

At least 1,018 U.S. troops have been killed in action since the invasion of Iraq 21 months ago. In all, 1,295 have died.


A Reuters journalist saw U.S. aircraft bomb parts of Falluja on Monday and heard sustained machinegun fire and explosions again on Tuesday morning.

Captain Paul Batty of the U.S. Marines in northern Falluja said "no more than 200" fighters were involved.

Marine officers have said they do not know whether any of the militants have returned to the city through an American cordon or whether they had been in hiding since an assault began on Nov. 8 that U.S. commanders say killed 1,600 guerrillas.

Batty said a majority of those still fighting appeared to be foreign Arabs, although he said Chechens had also been found.

Some 200,000 people are stranded in camps away from their homes in Falluja. Batty said U.S. forces hoped to be able to start allowing them to return around Dec. 24.

President Bush and his generals said a year ago that Saddam's arrest after eight months on the run could puncture guerrilla activity among his supporters in the Sunni Arab minority. But violence has gone on unabated.

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