Four Americans killed in attack on council meeting in Shia stronghold

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The Independent Online

Ten people, including two US government workers and two US soldiers, were killed yesterday when a bomb went off at a council meeting in the Baghdad stronghold of the Iraqi Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr.

Six Iraqis died and 10 were wounded in the attack on a local authority building in Sadr City. The US military blamed the bombing on renegade Shia militias called "special groups" – jargon for rogue elements of Mr Sadr's Mehdi Army that America claims is supported by Iran. Tehran denies the charges.

US forces also blamed a special group cell for a truck bomb that killed 63 people in a Shia neighbourhood of Baghdad a week ago.

The US Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice, said the deaths of the two American civilians were "a terrible reminder of the dangers that our colleagues face daily".

US forces said a suspect was caught trying to flee the scene and tested positive for explosives residue. A military spokesman, Lt-Col Steven Stover, said the target of the attack was believed to have been a high-ranking Iraqi councillor, but it was unclear whether he survived. Shia militants were unhappy that the councillor had been working with US forces, Lt-Col Stover added.

Mahmud al-Zamili, a member of Sadr City Council, said the blast occurred in the deputy leader's office, and he was among the wounded.