- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 1, 2004

BAGHDAD — The death toll rose to eight in a car-bomb attack that destroyed a Baghdad restaurant crowded with New Year’s Eve revelers, officials said yesterday. Three Los Angeles Times reporters were among the 35 wounded.

No group has taken responsibility for the Wednesday bombing, which occurred despite tightened security amid warnings of holiday terror attacks.

“The glass came flying. Everything else blew up. People were blown apart,” said Basam Sarhan, 25, a baker working in the kitchen at the back of the Nabil restaurant, located in the upscale Karrada neighborhood in the capital.

The Los Angeles Times said three of its reporters and five local staff members suffered cuts and other wounds that did not appear life-threatening.

The reporters were Chris Kraul, from the newspaper’s Mexico City bureau; Tracy Wilkinson, the Rome bureau chief; and correspondent Ann Simmons, a former bureau chief in Nairobi, Kenya. Also suffering minor injuries were three Iraqi drivers, a translator and a computer technician employed by the Times.

Salar Jaff, the Times’ Baghdad bureau office manager, had been driving to the restaurant behind three cars carrying his colleagues when the blast occurred.

“I heard the screams. I saw two people putting their hands on their faces all covered with blood, and their bodies were bleeding severely,” Mr. Jaff told the Times. “The glass was everywhere. People were just lying there. The cars were smoking; they were on fire.”

Lt. Col. Peter Jones of the 1st Armored Division, said he pulled four bodies from the rubble and Iraqi police later found four more. At least five of the dead were Iraqis, said Lt. Gen. Ahmed Kadhem, the deputy interior minister and Baghdad chief of police.

The blast was caused by a car booby-trapped with about 500 pounds of explosives, said Col. Ralph Baker, division commander of the 2nd Brigade of the 1st Armored Division.

After the explosion, helicopters buzzed overhead as ambulances and U.S. troops converged on Nabil, a popular spot with foreigners that had advertised a New Year’s Eve party with live music and belly dancing.

An American soldier leaned into the rubble after discovering a victim.

“She’s got a pulse. She’s got a pulse,” he screamed.

Several cars outside the restaurant were wrecked and burning. Gunfire was heard after the explosion, which left a large crater on a side street near the building.

Mr. Sarhan said there were about 25 people in the restaurant at the time of the blast.

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