- The Washington Times - Saturday, December 27, 2003

KARBALA, Iraq — Suicide bombers and assailants with mortars and grenade launchers blasted coalition military bases and the governor’s office in this southern city yesterday, killing 13 persons and wounding at least 172.

The death toll in the biggest rebel attack since Saddam Hussein’s capture earlier this month included six coalition soldiers — four Bulgarians and two Thais — six Iraqi police officers and an Iraqi civilian.

At least 172 persons, many of them civilians caught in the chaos, were wounded in three nearly simultaneous assaults apparently designed to test the resolve of Washington’s allies in the coalition governing Iraq.

A Polish-led force is responsible for security around the Shi’ite holy city of Karbala.

Also yesterday, Iraq’s U.S.-led administration put bounties of $1 million each on the heads of 12 remaining fugitives from the coalition’s list of the 55 most wanted Iraqis.

Administrators already are offering $10 million for information leading to the capture or death of the 13th remaining fugitive, Izzat Ibrahim al-Douri, a senior official in the former regime and a Saddam confidant who now is the most wanted man in Iraq.

Insurgents also may have targeted this city 70 miles south of Baghdad on the assumption that military targets there would be more vulnerable to attack.

The most intense rebel activity is in Sunni areas west and north of Baghdad, where combat-tested American troops have more experience fending off suicide bombers and other assailants.

One of four suicide bombers in Karbala gained entry to a Bulgarian camp, cutting through roadblocks in a car and destroying a building where the headquarters of the unit was located, Bulgarian Deputy Defense Minister Ilko Dimitrov said in the Bulgarian capital Sofia.

Four Bulgarian soldiers were killed and 27 others were wounded, Mr. Dimitrov said.

Bulgaria, a staunch supporter of the U.S. military campaign in Iraq, has a 485-member light infantry battalion stationed under Polish command.

A car bomb also killed two Thai soldiers on guard duty when the vehicle rammed into the walls of their camp, a Thai spokesman said in Bangkok. Thailand sent 422 soldiers to Iraq in September to provide medical aid and help rebuild the war-shattered infrastructure.

President Bush called the prime ministers of Bulgaria and Thailand to express his condolences for the soldiers killed in yesterday’s attacks, said White House spokesman Jimmy Orr.

In Baghdad, U.S. Army Brig. Gen. Mark Kimmitt said 37 coalition soldiers, including five Americans, were wounded.

Polish Maj. Gen. Andrzej Tyszkiewicz said from his headquarters at Camp Babylon, east of Karbala: “It was a coordinated, massive attack planned on a big scale and intended to do much harm.”

Also yesterday, rebels detonated homemade bombs that set aflame a fuel depot and injured six American soldiers. The attacks occurred in Baghdad and in Habaniyah, west of the capital.

In the northern city of Mosul, witnesses said rebels fired on a U.S. convoy from a car but then were pursued by the American soldiers, who killed four attackers. The U.S. military did not confirm the report.


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