Car Bomb Kills Guard at Baghdad U.N.
By Fiona O'Brien and Ian Simpson, Reuters
BAGHDAD (Sept. 22) - A suicide car bomber blew himself up near the U.N. headquarters in Baghdad on Monday, also killing a security guard and wounding 17 people, a month after a huge truck bomb devastated the building.
The bomber struck on the eve of the United Nations General Assembly in New York, which an Iraqi delegation is due to attend. One of those due to represent Iraq there, Governing Council member Akila al-Hashemi, was critically wounded on Saturday in an assassination attempt in Baghdad.
''This is a suicide bomb,'' Captain Sean Kirley, a U.S. officer at the scene, told reporters. He said the blast happened at about 8:10 a.m. (0410 GMT), some 250 meters (yards) from the U.N. building where 22 people died last month.
Kirley said the bomber drove into the U.N. car park and was stopped by an Iraqi security guard.
The force of the blast blew the car in half and sent shreds of metal dozens of meters in all directions. A blackened and burned-out hulk was all that the remained of the vehicle.
''The driver and the guard engaged in conversation and the bomb was detonated from inside the vehicle,'' Kirley said. ''The damage to the other cars was catastrophic.''
Kirley said the bomber had been aiming for the U.N. building but was deterred by the security. ''He wanted to get into the U.N. headquarters and he changed his target,'' he said.
PANIC AMONG STAFF
Hanan Tahir, a nutritionist working for the World Food Program, said the attack caused panic among staff.
''They were screaming, shouting,'' she said. ''They were crying and they were running.''
Aqeel Abd Ali, a guard at the building, said the torso and head of the bomber had been found, and the face was still recognizable. Police were trying to identify him.
At a nearby hospital, Wahid Karim was recovering after having a chunk of metal removed from his head.
''I didn't even hear it. I lost consciousness,'' he said. ''I came round in my car. The driver was bleeding.''
U.N. spokeswoman Antonia Paradela said 17 people were wounded, two of them Iraqi U.N. staff and the others Iraqi security guards. The blast, heard all over Baghdad, destroyed 10 other vehicles.
''This incident today once again underlines that Iraq remains a war zone and a high risk environment, particularly for those working to improve the lives of the Iraqi people,'' Kevin Kennedy, the senior U.N. official in Baghdad, said in a statement read out by Paradela at the scene.
Paradela said U.N. staff did not know why they were being targeted in Iraq. ''It's not really for lack of security that this happens,'' she said. ''If people are willing to kill themselves there's not a lot we can do.''
DEBATE OVER U.N. ROLE
Guerrillas also killed three U.S. soldiers over the weekend -- two in a mortar attack on Abu Ghraib prison west of Baghdad and one in a roadside bombing near the town of Ramadi.
In the southern city of Basra, men in two cars attacked a police station with gunfire and explosives, wounding nine policemen, a senior police officer told Reuters.
Rising violence has put President Bush under pressure at home, and Washington is urging other countries to send troops to Iraq to help establish peace after the war that toppled Saddam Hussein in April.
Since Bush declared major combat over on May 1, 79 U.S. soldiers have been killed in hostile incidents in Iraq.
Bush wants a new U.N. resolution to create a multinational force, but France and Germany, who opposed the war, are demanding the United States agree to a faster handover of power to Iraqis. Washington believes that would lead to chaos.
Hours before traveling to the United States on Sunday for the General Assembly, French President Jacques Chirac proposed that Washington transfer symbolic sovereignty to Iraqis soon and cede real power in six to nine months.
The United States, which has drafted a Security Council resolution on Iraq's future but not yet introduced it, opposes any deadlines to end the occupation and says the 25-member Iraqi Governing Council should set a timetable.
The recent violence has overshadowed Iraqi efforts to drum up investment at the annual meeting of the International Monetary Fund and World Bank in Dubai.
The country's finance minister announced measures on Sunday that would open the country to foreign investment after decades of rigid state control. But with security still a major problem, and the oil industry struggling to get back on its feet, analysts say real economic recovery looks distant.
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