'40 dead' as blasts rock Baghdad

International Red Cross headquarters and police stations targeted in fresh wave of attacks
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The Independent Online

Up to 40 people are feared dead after a a wave of bomb attacks in Baghdad today, including a huge blast at the headquarters of the International Red Cross.

At least 12 people are thought to have died after an ambulance packed with explosives rammed into security barriers outside the aid agency's offices.

Three other bombs are reported to have exploded in the Iraqi capital, leaving dozens more victims after two police stations were hit on the first day of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

It was also announced that three American soldiers were killed and four wounded in further attacks. Two soldiers were killed and two others wounded yesterday in Baghdad after their patrol was targeted by a roadside bomb. In nearby Abu Ghraib, one soldier was killed and two wounded after an attack on their Military Police unit.

Today, US Brigadier General Mark Hertling said the suicide bombing at the Red Cross killed 10 Iraqis and injured another 10. A witness reported that an ambulance drove up and "as it entered the front gate of the compound, it exploded.".

The Red Cross said there were casualties among its staff, although no Britons were believed to have been hurt. There were normally about 100 people, mostly Iraqis, working in the building.

"We don't understand why somebody would attack the Red Cross," a spokeswoman for the agency said. "It's very hard to understand."

The International Red Cross has been working in Iraq since 1980 and "has not been involved in any politics", she said.

Brig. Gen. Hertling said that today's other attacks involved three vehicle explosions. "From what our indications are, none of those bombers got close to the target either," he said.

The British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw reacted with "shock and outrage" to the Red Cross attack.

"The fact that terrorists have yet again targeted not US or UK troops but an international organization ... shows the depth of depravity to which they stoop," he said.

He called the security situation in Baghdad unsatisfactory but said "overall the situation across Iraq is getting better."

The attacks came after the Anglo-American coalition declared its determination to rebuild Iraq despite yesterday's rocket attack on the Al Rashid Hotel. The US Deputy Defence Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, who was staying in the Al Rashid Hotel at the time, escaped injury.