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Suicide bomber targets Turkish Embassy in Baghdad

BAGHDAD, Iraq—A car bomber blew himself up in front of the Turkish Embassy on Tuesday, injuring at least two people in the second suicide bombing in the Iraqi capital in three days.

Officials of the U.S.-led coalition said at least two people were injured, but witnesses and television news reports said as many as 13 were wounded. A bus at the scene was badly damaged.

The mid-afternoon blast came just days after Turkey decided to send troops to Iraq, a move the U.S.-appointed Iraqi Governing Council opposes. The council is sensitive to historic ethnic tension with the Turks and is wary of potential interference from neighboring countries.

Officials said they had increased security around the embassy after receiving a tip three days ago. Concrete barriers set up to keep cars out of the traffic lanes closest to the embassy absorbed much of the blast.

A suicide bombing on Sunday killed eight people near the Baghdad Hotel, home to contractors and officials working with the coalition. Tuesday's attack is the eighth car bombing since the Jordanian Embassy was bombed Aug. 7, deepening the sense of siege in Baghdad even as authorities insist that life here continues to improve.

"When I heard the explosion we thought it was inside the college," said Fawzi Abdul Hassan Kadhim, 57, who for seven years has been guarding the Wazaria College of Art next door to the embassy. "We rushed to protect the dean and we got him inside. Then I ran to the corner to see what happened. I saw a car bombed and a lot of smoke. We found human remains on the roof of the college."

Two embassy workers, one Iraqi and the other Turkish, were treated at hospitals.

While the level of violence in Baghdad has dropped over the last three months, "we do have an increase in the number of homicide bombers and roadside bombers," said Col. Peter Mansoor of the 1st Armored Division.

"More Iraqis are killed or wounded by these explosions than American forces," Mansoor added. "I think the Iraqi people need to realize that the people who conduct these actions are not on their side. The only thing they have offered to the people of Iraq is more death and destruction."

Demonstrators gathered at the scene of the car bombing, chanting pro-Saddam Hussein slogans. Iraqi police shot in the air and arrested a man, and the protest broke up.

In other developments, about 40 to 50 gunmen loyal to young Shiite cleric Muqtada al Sadr battled Monday night with about 200 gunmen claiming allegiance to Iraq's top Shiite leader, Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani, in Karbala, southwest of Baghdad. At least six people were killed, said 1st Lt. Hashim Adami, a Karbala police officer. Sistani is said to favor separation between religion and politics; Sadr favors a theocracy such as Iran's.

U.S. soldiers were killed in three separate incidents on Monday. Two soldiers from the 1st Armored Division died in an accident between a military vehicle and a civilian car, officials said. In Tikrit, one soldier was killed and two were wounded by a rocket-propelled grenade. In Jalula, northwest of Baghdad, a 4th Infantry Division soldier was killed and two were wounded when attackers used a homemade roadside bomb to ambush a military convoy.

In addition, Iraq's new oil minister, Ibrahim Bahr al Uloum, was shot at by unknown gunmen Monday night as he drove home through the wealthy Mansour neighborhood with Nabeel al Musawi, an assistant to governing council member Ahmad Chalabi. Four bodyguards traveling with the council officials reportedly returned fire, but no one was injured in the confrontation.


(c) 2003, Knight Ridder/Tribune Information Services.

PHOTOS (from KRT Photo Service, 202-383-6099): USIRAQ-BOMB