Suicide bomber kills 8 Marines

Attack is the deadliest on U.S. troops since May

Blast kills 7 at Arab TV network

U.S., Iraqi forces ready offensive on insurgents

October 31, 2004|By Alex Rodriguez | Alex Rodriguez,CHICAGO TRIBUNE

BAGHDAD, Iraq - U.S. troops suffered their deadliest day in Iraq in nearly six months when a suicide car bombing yesterday killed eight Marines west of Baghdad.

The attack, which occurred near Abu Ghraib, came as U.S. and Iraqi security forces readied an all-out assault on insurgents holed up in Fallujah and nearby Ramadi. Nine Marines were injured in the bombing, according to a statement released by the U.S. military.

A Marine spokesman said a suicide car bomber carried out the attack, but the military would not release further details. The death toll was the U.S. military's worst for a single day since May 2, when nine American soldiers died in roadside bombings and mortar attacks in Ramadi, Kirkuk and Baghdad.

In all, about 30 people were killed across Iraq yesterday as insurgent activity picked up and U.S. and Iraqi forces responded.

In Baghdad, a huge car bomb collapsed the first floor of the offices of an Arab television network in the upscale Mansour neighborhood, killing at least seven people and wounding 19 others.

Nearly 30 people were in the building, gathered in a first-floor office to say goodbye to the network's Baghdad bureau chief, who was leaving for Dubai, said Al-Arabiya correspondent Jawad al-Khattab.

"Then the roof collapsed on us," al-Khattab said in the hallway of Yarmouk Hospital. He walked away from the blast with only minor scratches to his face. "The explosion was huge. The whole building was on fire. Everyone was screaming, and there were bodies everywhere."

The blast occurred near the house of Adnan Pachachi, a Sunni Muslim ally of the United States and a member of the now-defunct Iraqi Governing Council.

Anissa Hermes, 45, a maid for a house across the street from Al-Arabiya, was talking with another maid in the kitchen when the explosion tore through their building. "I saw a huge explosion, and then I couldn't see anything," said Hermes, who suffered wounds to her neck, shoulder and mouth. "I staggered outside, and after that I can't remember anything else."

Al-Khattab said the network's Baghdad office had recently received threats from insurgents. An Islamic extremist group called the 1920 Brigades claimed responsibility for the attack, the Associated Press reported.

In a statement posted on the Internet, the group called Al-Arabiya "Americanized spies speaking in Arabic tongue ... We have threatened them to no avail that they are the mouthpiece of the American occupation in Iraq."

In Fallujah, U.S. troops and Iraqi security forces were making final preparations before mounting a long-awaited major offensive on insurgents in the mostly Sunni Muslim city of 300,000. U.S. military leaders believe as many as 5,000 insurgents remain in Fallujah, bracing themselves for a showdown.

A prime aim of the invasion will be to root out Jordanian militant Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, who has claimed responsibility for many car bombings, kidnappings and ambushes across Iraq. But Iraqi and U.S. military leaders also want to seize control of the city and restore order before the country's national elections in January.

U.S. fighter jets and artillery strikes continued to pound suspected insurgent safe houses and checkpoints in the city. Yesterday, U.S. troops clashed with insurgents in an industrial neighborhood on the southeastern end of Fallujah, according to witnesses.

In Ramadi, two civilians were killed and four others wounded yesterday when a U.S. Bradley fighting vehicle shot into an Iraqi taxi that was accelerating toward it.

"It's a tragedy," said Army 2nd Brigade Combat Team spokesman Sgt. 1st Class Brian Sutton. "We'll investigate this and find out if it's a legitimate engagement."

Soldiers from the combat team have been attacked by suicide car bombers six times in the past week as attacks by insurgents and U.S. actions have heated up in Fallujah and its sister city of Ramadi, Sutton said.

On Thursday, one soldier based in Ramadi was killed by a suicide driver who forced his way into a convoy. At least one of the other suicide car bombers was in a yellow-and-white taxi like the one fired on yesterday.

The gunner in the Bradley, stationed at a checkpoint in the sprawl of farmland and outbuildings north of Ramadi, fired once into the taxi's engine block as it started speeding toward the parked Bradley. When the taxi continued to accelerate, the gunner fired into the passenger compartment, Sutton said.

The victims were rushed to the combat team's headquarters outside Ramadi and treated by combat medics, Sutton said. As night fell, helicopters sped the wounded to hospitals elsewhere in Iraq.

Meanwhile, the AP reported that Iraqi security forces responded to an attack on a U.S. convoy south of Baghdad by firing indiscriminately at nearby buses and vans, killing 14 people and wounding 10 others.

It reported that the convoy had been attacked early yesterday with three roadside bombs near the Iskandariyah. Witnesses said Iraqi police and Iraqi national guard arrived and began firing wildly at vehicles at the scene.

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