Iraqi newspaper bombed

At least 52 killed in day of violence

August 28, 2006|By New York Times News Service

BAGHDAD, Iraq --A suicide car bomber attacked Iraq's largest newspaper yesterday, detonating his vehicle inside its fortified compound in Baghdad, killing two people and injuring 20, the executive editor and government officials said.

The bombing was part of a violent day across Iraq in which explosions and gunbattles killed at least 52, including a U.S. soldier.

In Baghdad, a bomb planted on a commuter bus blew up near the entrance to a downtown hotel, killing nine people and wounding 20, and a convoy ferrying a deputy defense minister came under heavy gunfire that wounded two bodyguards, officials said.

The bombing of Al-Sabah, a national newspaper financed by the Shiite-led Iraqi government, destroyed more than a dozen vehicles and caused the collapse of a part of the building where journalists and printing press operators work, said the executive editor, Falah al-Mishaal.

The attack occurred about 8:30 a.m. Guards carrying assault rifles grew suspicious of the vehicle after it had been cleared to enter the newspaper's parking lot, al-Mishaal said. Before the bomber could be killed, he blew up his vehicle, sending at least two parked cars through the building's wall.

"Tomorrow we will return to work again," al-Mishaal said.

The attack was the second on Al-Sabah, which means "morning" in Arabic, in three months. On May 6, a suicide bomber in a car set off an explosion at the newspaper's main vehicle checkpoint, killing one person and wounding several others.

Al-Mishaal blamed the attacks on Iraqi insurgents and foreign terrorists, including the successor to Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the Jordanian leader of al-Qaida in Iraq who was killed in a U.S. airstrike in June.

"We have received many threats from Zarqawi's assistant," al-Mishaal said. "We published them in the newspaper."

He said he believed that the bombing yesterday was also in retaliation for a meeting of Iraqi television and newspaper editors organized by his newspaper this month where the editors were to sign a "pledge of honor" to respect the government's reconciliation efforts and to avoid printing or broadcasting inflammatory statements or violent images.

"This is an attack against all Iraqi media," al-Mishaal said.

At least 16 journalists working for Al-Sabah and a government-run Baghdad television station have been killed since 2003.

Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki "strongly denounced" the attack on Al-Sabah.

And yet, in remarks closely following similarly upbeat statements by U.S. military officials in Baghdad, the prime minister also sought to lend optimism to his government's efforts to bring security to Baghdad and other parts of the country, and to rule out the possibility of civil war.

"We are not in a civil war; Iraq will never be in a civil war," he said, through an interpreter, in an interview with CNN. "The violence is in decrease, and our security ability is increasing."

Also yesterday, an Iraqi official said Abu Ghraib prison, which became notorious for the abuse of Iraqi inmates by American soldiers, had been emptied of inmates and was under the control of Iraq's Justice Ministry.

Saad Sultan, the supervisor of detention facilities in Iraq's Human Rights Ministry, said yesterday that more than 3,000 prisoners in U.S. custody were transferred Aug. 15 to Camp Cropper, a U.S. base near Baghdad International Airport.

He said the move was done "for security reasons, because Abu Ghraib is an unsafe area." The prison has long been the target of mortar fire from insurgents.

Elsewhere in Iraq, 21 people died yesterday in violence in and around Baqouba, 30 miles northeast of Baghdad.

Near Kirkuk, a northern oil city on the border of the autonomous Kurdish region, four traffic police were killed in an ambush.

Also in Kirkuk, a suicide bomber driving a truck full of explosives stormed into a building housing the offices of the main Kurdish political party, killing two security workers and injuring 16 others. A suicide bomb attack later yesterday killed nine.

A U.S. soldier was killed yesterday in Baghdad by small-arms fire, the military said. A U.S. soldier died Saturday after a roadside bomb detonated near his vehicle in Baghdad.

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