'12 Italians killed' in Iraq blast

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The Independent Online

A truck bomb exploded today at the headquarters of the Italian Carabinieri police in Nasiriyah, devastating the three-story building.

In Rome, Italian officials said at least 12 Italians were killed. The coalition spokesman, Andrea Angeli, said some Iraqis were also killed.

Angeli said the explosion occurred after a truck approached one of the buildings at the Italian compound. He said the vehicle rammed the gate of the compound and exploded in front of the Carabinieri building, which was the former chamber of commerce office.

He said the force of the explosion was so strong that it blew out windows in another building across the Euphrates River. All the vehicles parked outside the stricken building exploded in flames.

Angeli said secondary explosions from ammunition stored on the compound rocked the area moments after the main blast.

Angeli, speaking by telephone from Nasiriyah, said the scene at the site was chaotic, with Iraqis crowding into the area as rescuers attempted to find any survivors in the rubble.

The blast left a crater 7-8 meters wide, he said. He said all the building did not collapse but all floors have been devastated.

A building across the street housed the offices of the International Corps, a nongovernmental organization, which also suffered damage. Angeli said one American, one British and several Iraqi employees were hurt.

"This is the first attack (since the end of active combat) in Nasiriyah and the first against the Italians," Angeli said.

He said the wounded were rushed to a civilian hospital and the most critically hurt were transferred to a coalition facility. The area has been cordoned off by troops, he said.