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Tanker explosion in Baghdad kills at least 10

BAGHDAD, Iraq—A truck carrying fuel exploded at a Baghdad intersection Wednesday, killing at least 10 people and injuring 20 others.

Iraqi police at first said the explosion was a bombing, and that the truck driver had been aiming at their station nearby. But Capt. Jason Beck of the U.S. 1st Armored Division, which investigated, said it was an accident and that no bomb parts had been found.

The fuel truck collided with a pickup in the intersection shortly before dawn, police said. Many of the victims were passengers in a minibus.

It was unclear how many were killed. Police placed the figure as high as 17, while hospital officials said there were 10 dead. Three of those killed were children.

When the truck exploded, many Iraqis in the area thought it was a bomb attack, possibly by loyalists to Saddam Hussein. Since the former Iraqi dictator was captured Saturday, violent demonstrations have erupted across several cities, and two suicide bombings at police stations have killed nine Iraqis.

"I thought that after Saddam was arrested, the security situation would get better," the minibus's driver, Awad Jaber, 44, said as he nursed his bandaged head and hands in his hospital bed. "We're seeing the opposite now."

Also on Wednesday, protesters in Mosul overran and burned down the offices of two anti-Saddam political parties.

In Samarra, 60 miles north of Baghdad, American troops launched a new operation to flush out suspected insurgents. U.S. military officials said Wednesday that they'd captured eight suspected guerrillas in Samarra and three in nearby Baqouba.

A raid Tuesday netted a senior Iraqi rebel leader and 78 others in a village near Samarra.

"We are going to control Samarra, but at some point we will hand it over to the Iraqi police. There is going to be a show of force from now on," said Col. Nate Sassaman, chief of the 1st Battalion, 8th Infantry Regiment.

At the scene of Wednesday's explosion in Baghdad's poor al Bayaa neighborhood, several charred, mangled vehicles lay on the road. The ground was covered with blood and flesh, car parts and shattered glass.

"The Palestinians attack Jews, the people who are occupying their country," said Basil Radi, an engineer. "Here, instead of killing Americans, only Iraqis are being killed in the car bombs—children, women, old men. What are their sins?"

Officers at the nearby Hy-Alamil police station said they had received a bomb threat a few days ago. In recent weeks, suicide bombers have targeted a number of police stations for what they see as collaboration with the U.S. occupation forces.

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

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

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