'Ten killed' in Baghdad blast

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The Independent Online

A massive car bomb exploded today at a checkpoint near the area housing the US Embassy and offices of the interim government in Baghdad, killing at least 10 people and wounding 40, including a US soldier, authorities said.

A massive car bomb exploded today at a checkpoint near the area housing the US Embassy and offices of the interim government in Baghdad, killing at least 10 people and wounding 40, including a US soldier, authorities said.

The car that blew up today was packed with 450 kilogrammes of explosives. The blast happened at the checkpoint leading to the parking lot, said Iraqi police Col. Majid Abdel Hamid.

Smoke poured into the air over the lot. Police cars and ambulances raced to the scene, and US helicopters hovered overhead.

"We were gathering outside the convention centre seeking jobs," said one witness, Alla Hassan. "We were thrown on the ground. Then I saw many dead people on the ground."

The area, formerly known as the "Green Zone," was once the headquarters of the US occupation authorities. Now named the International Zone, it houses the US and British Embassies, as well as the offices of the interim Iraqi government.

An American solider was slightly wounded, said Col. Mike Murray of the 1st Cavalry Division.

The blast occurred on a holiday marking the 46th anniversary of the bloody nationalist coup that killed the last king, Faisal II.

Iraqi interim Prime Minister Iyad Allawi later visited the site and said the bombing came in retaliation for arrests of terrorism suspects, though he offered no details on who the suspects were or when they were arrested.

"This is a new crime that shows that the forces of evil are trying to harm the Iraqi people," Allawi said. "The civilians who met martyrdom today were job-seekers. The government will do its best to arrest those criminals."He said 10 were dead and 40 were wounded.

"We will crush those terrorist soon," Allawi said.

A Reuters driver suffered a shrapnel wound in the leg, agency spokeswoman Susan Allsopp said from London. The driver's condition was not considered serious.

The attack followed a relative lull in Baghdad, but the insurgents still appear to be strong - as evinced by the aftershocks from the kidnapping of the Filipino, Angelo dela Cruz.

Dela Cruz's captors said they would treat him like a prisoner of war if Manila made a good-faith move toward withdrawing its 51 troops early and would free him if the pullout was completed by July 20. The government statement today did not clarify when the pullout would be finished but appeared directed toward that demand.

"The Foreign Affairs Ministry is coordinating the pullout of the humanitarian contingent with the Ministry of National Defence," the statement said. "As of today, our head count is down from 51 to 43."

The government was already set to withdraw its troops by August 20. A full withdrawal before then would be a major blow to the unity of US-led coalition in Iraq.

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