BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) – Suicide car bombers struck in Baghdad for
the third time in a week yesterday, this time outside the Turkish
Embassy in yet another blow against those who would help the U.S.
occupation. Witnesses said the driver and a bystander were killed,
and hospitals said at least 13 were wounded.

In the southern city of Karbala, meanwhile, gunmen of rival
Shiite Muslim factions clashed and witnesses said several people
were killed or injured. It appeared to be part of a power struggle
between forces of the firebrand cleric Muqtada al-Sadr and
followers of religious leaders who take a more moderate stand
toward the U.S. occupation.

Just who is behind the car bombings in the capital – including
two killing 18 other people in Baghdad in recent days – remained a
mystery, although Iraqis converging on the scene yesterday began
chanting pro-Saddam Hussein slogans.

“This is the act of those who want to turn Iraq into a terror
paradise,” said Turkish Ambassador Osman Paksut, whose government
has offered peacekeeping troops to reinforce the U.S. military
presence here, a move strongly opposed by Iraqis.

Much of the blast was absorbed by concrete barriers outside the
embassy, U.S. officials said. The bomber might have caught U.S.
troops if he had struck last weekend, when they were deployed
outside the mission in northwest Baghdad, apparently because of a
threat.

“About three days ago, we received indications that there might
be increased danger on the Turkish Embassy,” said Col. Peter
Mansoor of the U.S. 1st Armored Division. “We revved up security
measures based on those indications.”

He said the FBI and Iraqi police were investigating. Similar
investigations of seven other vehicle bombings, killing more than
140 people across Iraq beginning in August, have made no known
breakthroughs.

Following yesterday’s clash in Karbala, Pentagon officials said
the U.S. military is concerned about al-Sadr but is uncertain
whether he poses a significant threat. The officials, speaking on
condition of anonymity, said they remain committed to disarming
militias – including al-Sadr’s – but declined to say whether they
planned to confront his followers.

At his headquarters in Najaf, south of Karbala, al-Sadr demanded
the Americans set a timetable for withdrawal. “Whoever cooperates
with the occupation forces is not a Shiite. Indeed, they are not
Muslims,” he said.

 

 

 

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