BAGHDAD, Oct. 14 -- Insurgents hand-carried explosives into the most fortified section of Baghdad Thursday where U.S. and Iraqi government offices are housed and detonated the bombs within seconds of each other, killing 10 people, including four Americans.
Later in the day, U.S. forces were reported to be launching a fierce attack on Fallujah, a city in the rebellious Sunni Triangle, that has been a center of insurgent activity. Jordanian militant Abu Musab Zarqawi and his followers, who have claimed responsibility for a number of slayings of Westerners and bomb attacks, including the one Thursday in Baghdad's central city, are believed to use Fallujah, about 40 miles north of Baghdad, as a refuge. U.S. forces have been unable to enter the city for months, but it has been repeatedly hit by strikes from U.S. fighter planes.
An American helicopter passes over after two explosions in the heavily fortified Green Zone in Baghdad on Thursday.
(John Moore - AP)
Video Report: A car bomb explodes near a U.S. convoy west of Baghdad.
Residents told the Associated Press and Reuters news agencies that the attack by U.S. forces late Friday was more intense than those of the recent past. It was not immediately clear exactly what forces were involved and what the objective was. U.S. military officials did not issue a statement on the actions. But Maj. Francis Piccoli, spokesman for the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force, told AP that two Marine battalions were engaged in the fight backed up by aircraft.
The latest attack came a day after Iraq's interim Prime Minister Ayad Allawi threatened military action against Fallujah unless the city hands over Zarqawi and his group. City officials rejected that demand.
Separately Thursday, the military said that a roadside bomb in eastern Baghdad killed a U.S. soldier and that another was killed when his patrol was attacked with small arms fire, bringing the number of soldiers killed to 16 during the past eight days.
In addition: an Iraqi woman journalist and a judge were killed in apparent assassinations in Baghdad; gunmen kidnapped two Turkish and two Iraqi truck drivers in separate ambushes near Samarra, north of Baghdad; in Kirkuk, a roadside bomb killed a civilian and wounded six Iraqi National Guardsmen and a car blew up near a U.S. military convoy.
In Washington, State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said that four of the dead in the Baghdad blasts were U.S. citizens who were working as security officials and the other six were Iraqis. Two other Americans were seriously wounded, he said, and several U.S. Embassy employees had minor injuries. Officials in Baghdad said as many as 20 people were injured.
The dead men were employees of DynCorp, a global security firm based in Fort Worth, Tex. Mike Dickerson, a spokesman for Computer Sciences Corp., DynCorp's parent company, identified them as John Pinsonneault, 39, of North Branch, Minn.; Steve Osborne, 40, of Kennesaw, Ga.; and Eric Miner, 44, of South Windham, Conn. He said Ferdinand Ibaboa, 36, of Mesa, Ariz., is missing and presumed dead.
Dickerson said in his statement that two other company employees were injured. John Jenkins, 39, of Meridian, Ga., was hospitalized with serious injuries, and Michael Cannon, 34, of Holly Springs, N.C. , was treated and released, he said.
"The management and staff of CSC and its DynCorp International business unit stand united in our sadness over the deaths and injuries of our employees," Dickerson said. "We extend our heartfelt and deepest sympathies to the families of the victims."
It was the first attack of its kind in the Green Zone, where U.S. and Iraqi government offices are housed. The zone, rimmed with cement blast walls and checkpoints, is often the target of attack from the outside but rarely from the inside. Earlier in the day, U.S. military officials described the assault as a "suicide" attack. A written statement later, however, said only that the explosive devices appeared to have been "hand-carried to the two locations."
Witnesses told AP that two men carrying backpacks entered the Green Zone Cafe around the lunch hour and drank tea for about 30 minutes. One left, the witnesses said, and an explosion was heard shortly afterward. The man who remained detonated his bomb moments later.
A few hours after the Green Zone attack, a Web site often used by militants carried a claim of responsibility on behalf of Zarqawi, who is responsible for numerous kidnappings and beheadings in Iraq. The claim could not be independently verified.
"Two lions from the Tawhid and Jihad group's Martyrdom Brigade managed to get inside . . . the Green Zone in the capital Baghdad," said the claim, calling Thursday's attack one of the Zarqawi group's most successful operations.
The Green Zone, officially called the "International Zone," is at the center of Baghdad, occupying a three-square-mile cluster of national monuments, palaces and parkland where the Coalition Provisional Authority made its headquarters before it went out of existence on June 28. The zone, along the Tigris River, is a city unto itself, with broad, tree-lined avenues that wind among apartment buildings, garish palaces and government ministries, many of them caved in more than a year ago by U.S. bombs.
Capt. Lennol Absher said there were two separate blasts, one at the Green Zone Cafe, where a bomb was found last week, and the other at an Iraqi bazaar selling rugs, DVDs and other assorted items.
He said the blasts were nearly simultaneous, sending plumes of black smoke into the air. The one near the market left a huge crater.
The Reuters news agency reported that gunmen killed Iraqi woman journalist Dina Hassan outside her home in Baghdad on Thursday. "She was killed before eight o'clock this morning when she was heading to the office," Nawrouz Fatah, manager of Al Hurriya Television, told Reuters.
Al Hurriya is operated by one of Iraq's two main Kurdish political parties, the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan. An interior ministry spokesman said the journalist had been shot by car-borne gunmen in the Sunni Muslim Adhamiya district.
There was no word on the motive for the killing.
Barbash reported from Washington.