Polish envoy wounded in Baghdad

Security guard killed in attack on convoy

October 04, 2007|By Tina Susman and Said Rifai | Tina Susman and Said Rifai,LOS ANGELES TIMES

BAGHDAD -- A series of explosions hit a convoy carrying the Polish ambassador as it traveled through Baghdad yesterday, injuring the envoy and killing one of his security guards in what officials described as a carefully timed attack.

Witnesses said three blasts went off, seconds apart, as the three-vehicle convoy drove near the Polish Embassy in central Baghdad. The ambassador, Gen. Edward Pietrzyk, was evacuated to a U.S.-run hospital in the Green Zone, where his injuries were described as not serious.

Two helicopters from the security company Blackwater USA were used to airlift Pietrzyk and at least two other wounded people from the scene, even as Iraqi government officials repeated their condemnation of Blackwater. Employees of the security company, which provides guards for U.S. Ambassador Ryan Crocker and other State Department officials, are accused of shooting to death at least 11 Iraqi civilians Sept. 16 on a crowded Baghdad street.

The Blackwater helicopters deployed to the scene of yesterday's attack were part of the security contingent contracted to protect the U.S. Embassy in Iraq. Poland has been a staunch supporter of the U.S. presence in Iraq and has about 900 troops in the country. At least 22 Polish troops have died since the war began in 2003, according to www.icasualties.org.

"We condemn this barbarous attack," said U.S. Embassy spokeswoman Mirembe Nantongo.

U.S. and Iraqi troops and guards at the scene of the bombing said it appeared the explosive devices had been planted and timed to go off as the convoy passed. An Iraqi working as an interpreter for the U.S. military pointed out three large craters created by the blasts.

The street on which the blasts occurred is heavily populated with security guards because of the heavy presence of diplomatic residences and compounds, leading to speculation that the attacker was an infiltrator.

In Warsaw, Polish Prime Minister Jaroslaw Kaczynski, whose government faces pressure to pull its troops from Iraq, said had no intention of doing so despite the attack, news agencies reported.

"Desertion is always the worst option," Kaczynski said. "This is a difficult situation, but those who became engaged and were there for years and then withdraw are making the worst possible mistake."

Tina Susman and Said Rifai write for the Los Angeles Times.

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