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Suicide car bomber hits US intelligence headquarters in north of Iraq
( 2003-09-10 18:50) (Agencies)

A suicide car bomber struck the US intelligence headquarters in Irbil,Iraq, a Kurdish security official told The Associated Press on Wednesday. He said four Iraqis were killed, including the bomber and a 12-year-old boy. Six Americans were wounded, three of them with serious injuries to their abdomen caused by flying glass.

The Kurdish official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the attack was the work of al-Qaeda. He gave no reason for that assessment, but said he was certain Osama bin Laden's organization was behind the attack.

The Ansar al-Islam terrorist organization, with suspected ties to al-Qaeda, was formerly based near Sulaymaniyah, about 50 kilometers (30 miles) east of Irbil and near the Iranian border.

Ansar headquarters was bombed by US jets during the war and surviving members of the group were thought to have fled to Iran. They are now believed to have returned to Iraq.

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

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 Wednesday.

The attack occurred at about 5 p.m. Tuesday, the Central Command said on a statement posted on its Web site. The soldiers were from the US Army's 3rd Corp Support Command, it said. The wounded soldier was evacuated to a field hospital.

The death was the first to be reported by the US military in eight days, although sporadic attacks had continued against occupying forces.

A witness to the Irbil attack, Jafar Marouf, a 31-year-old teacher, was visiting a friend 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 and spoke with the AP in the hospital.

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 Kurdish security official said US intelligence officers worked in the bombed building, with some of the top officers also sleeping there. Others had quarters in two villas about 500 meters (yards) down the street.

``It was a blasphemy to put their base in a civilian neighborhood,'' said Najib Abdullah, 50, the manager of a gas station nearby. He said he was in his office counting the days proceeds when the blast occurred. ``The whole neighborhood shook. Chunks of concrete were falling from the sky.''

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

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

He said that the military was investigating the bombing, which occurred Tuesday at 10"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, about 200 miles 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.

For the third time in two weeks, anti-tank rockets were fired at, but missed, the headquarters Denmark's 400-man military contingent in southern Iraq, the Danish military said 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 200 meters (yards) away from the Danish headquarters in Al Qurnah, just north of Basra, early 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 UN 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 neighboring countries should not send peacekeepers.

Entifadh Kanbar, the spokesman 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 ten thousand," 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 re-ignite 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 United States, 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 Gen. Hilmi Ozkok, head of the military. "If the United States is unsuccessful and there is instability there, this will concern Turkey." 

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