Ambush Injures Polish Diplomat in Iraq
Wednesday, October 3, 2007; 4:49 PM
BAGHDAD -- A daring ambush of bombs and gunfire left Poland's ambassador pinned down in a burning vehicle Wednesday before being pulled to safety and airlifted in a rescue mission by the embattled security firm Blackwater USA. At least three people were killed, including a Polish bodyguard.
The attack _ apparently well planned in one of Baghdad's most secure neighborhoods _ raised questions about whether it sought to punish Poland for its contributions to the U.S.-led military force in Iraq. But Poland's prime minister, Jaroslaw Kaczynski, said his nation would not retreat "in the face of terrorists."
The diplomatic convoy was hit by three bombs and then attackers opened fire in the Shiite-controlled Karradah district. Polish guards returned fire as the injured ambassador, Gen. Edward Pietrzyk, was pulled from his burning vehicle. At least 10 people, including four Polish security agents, were wounded.
U.S. Embassy officials dispatched Blackwater helicopters to evacuate the ambassador and others. Blackwater was not involved in protecting the Polish convoy.
Pietrzyk, who was commander of ground forces in Poland before taking the ambassador post in April, suffered minor burns over 20 percent of his body, including his head and right arm and leg, said Polish Charge d'Affaires Waldemar Figaj.
"They were waiting for us," Figaj told The Associated Press as he gave details of the attack.
Shortly after the assault, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki renewed his government's offensive against Blackwater.
"There have been 190 victims of Blackwater ... The kind of accusations leveled against the company means it is not fit to work in Iraq," he told a news conference.
It was not known if al-Maliki knew Blackwater rescued the Polish envoy. It also was not clear if the 190 victims represented a new figure arising from an Iraqi investigation or a reference to the 195 incidents involving the U.S. security company outlined in a House report earlier this week.
Congress is looking into Blackwater's role in a Sept. 16 shootout that left 11 Iraqis dead in a west Baghdad intersection and other incidents by the Moyock, N.C.-based company, which protects U.S. diplomats and others in Iraq.
Diplomatic missions or foreign envoys in Iraq have been attacked at least seven times since the war began, including the July 2005 kidnapping and murder of Egypt's ambassador.
Poland, a staunch U.S. ally, contributed combat troops to the 2003 U.S.-led invasion and has since led a multinational division south of Baghdad. About 900 Polish troops remain in the country training Iraqi personnel; 21 Poles have died during the conflict.