washingtonpost.com  > World > Middle East > The Gulf > Iraq

Insurgent Attacks in Iraq Kill 8 on Christmas

Three Civilians Die in Bombing of U.S. Convoy; Roadside Blast in Mosul Kill 5

By Karl Vick and Josh White
Washington Post Foreign Service
Sunday, December 26, 2004; Page A34

BAGHDAD, Dec. 25 -- A car bomb killed three civilians after detonating Saturday near a U.S. military convoy south of Baghdad, and the death toll rose to nine from an apparent truck bombing near the Jordanian Embassy on Christmas Eve.

The bodies of seven members of a single family were pulled from the rubble of a house that collapsed Friday night when a fuel tanker exploded, illuminating the night sky over much of Baghdad's west side. Police said two other people were also killed in the blast.

A bus for Iraqi guardsmen burns in Mosul. Five died in the roadside bombing. (AP)

Explosives wired to the truck detonated after the tanker became snagged in the series of concrete blocks that obstructed the approach to a residence that the Jordanian government began using as its embassy after its previous chancery was destroyed by a car bomb last year. That Aug. 7, 2003, attack was the first of some 200 car bombings in Iraq.

Many bombs have targeted U.S. forces. The vehicle used in the bombing beside a U.S. convoy about 4:30 p.m. on Christmas Day was an old white Toyota Land Cruiser parked since 9 a.m. on the main road in Khan Al-Nus, about 25 miles north of Najaf.

"When the American convoy passed, the car exploded," said Hasan Aboud Khudair, 28, who witnessed the detonation, apparently triggered by remote control. "I saw three people who were killed and there three or four wounded." Houses near the explosion were damaged, and there was blood on the ground.

Maj. Ghalib Jazaeri, Najaf chief of police, said "some" U.S. soldiers were wounded as well, and several military vehicles damaged.

A prominent Turkish businessman, appearing on a videotape broadcast on Turkish television, said he had been kidnapped in Iraq.

"Today is Dec. 23. We were captured four or five days ago," said Kahraman Sadikoglu, president of Istanbul's Tuzla Shipyard, who was shown beside one of his ship's captains, who was weeping. Sadikoglu said his firm was working with the United Nations and the Iraqi government to clear Iraq's seaways of sunken ships.

"We don't have any problems with the Iraqi government; we're creating jobs and food for the Iraqis," he said on the video. "If that is a crime too, then we will accept the punishment."

Dozens of Turkish truck drivers and other commercial workers have been kidnapped in Iraq, and at least seven have been killed. Turkish newspapers reported a $25 million ransom demand for Sadikoglu, a figure the Turkish Foreign Ministry refused to confirm.

In another attack, the governor of Diyala province, northeast of Baghdad, survived a bomb attack on his convoy in which four police guards were wounded.

In Mosul, the city in the far north, a roadside bomb destroyed a bus carrying Iraqi security forces. The Associated Press reported the blast killed five Iraqi National Guardsmen and wounded three. News photos showed men and children pelting the burning hulk with rocks.

In the aftermath of an apparent suicide bombing in a mess tent at a base in Mosul Tuesday that killed 22 people, U.S. commanders across Iraq have grown even more preoccupied with protecting American troops.

Maj. Gen. John R. S. Batiste, who commands the 1st Infantry Division, issued an order this weekend urging additional care in searching people who arrive on bases in north-central Iraq. Batiste said he wants the division -- which includes more than 30,000 troops covering an area the size of West Virginia -- to be vigilant to thwart infiltrations.

"Any prudent commander at this point is going to take a close look at his procedures," Batiste said during a Christmas Day tour of his area of operations along the Tigris River north of Baghdad. "We already have good procedures in place, but we want to scrub it and validate that we're doing it right. We're a learning organization."

Batiste spoke with soldiers at the gate of Forward Operating Base Remagen in Tikrit on Saturday, spreading holiday wishes but also imploring them to make sure each person entering the base is thoroughly searched. Officials have said the Mosul bomber was wearing an Iraqi National Guard uniform.

"Searching people is incredibly important," Batiste told the soldiers. "While we can trust a vast majority of Iraqis, we need to be careful. The enemy has figured out our patterns."

Command Sgt. Maj. Cory McCarty, the 1st Infantry Division's top enlisted soldier, said military planners had forecast suicide bombings at some sort on U.S. installations but were unsure when or how such attacks would occur. Officials have been changing their tactics at base entrances to deter insurgents from entering.

"This was in our risk analysis for some time, and we knew it could be coming," McCarty said. "In an insurgency, you just don't know exactly what the bad guys are going to do."

© 2004 The Washington Post Company