- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 9, 2003

BAGHDAD — A car bomb exploded yesterday outside an office used by U.S. soldiers in northern Iraq, private CNN-Turk television reported. Several people were reported wounded, but it was not clear whether Americans were among them.

The wounded included Iraqi Kurdish guards and children from nearby houses.

U.S. military officials said they could not immediately confirm the television report, monitored in Ankara, Turkey.

A Turkish reporter at the scene said by telephone that the building was partly collapsed and that most of the injured were from nearby houses.

The TV footage showed Kurdish women wailing and men running in panic with a burning car behind them. At least one civilian could be seen carrying a wounded child in his arms.

Footage showed the four-wheel-drive vehicle that apparently carried the bomb was intact but extensively burned. Its chassis was in one piece.

Authorities in Irbil, administrative capital of Kurdish-controlled northern Iraq about 200 miles north of Baghdad, called to residents over loudspeakers to donate blood for the wounded, CNN-Turk said.

Elsewhere in Iraq, three U.S. soldiers were injured yesterday when their Humvee hit a mine on the road near Fallujah, 35 miles west of Baghdad, witnesses said. The military confirmed the incident but said it had no details.

Fallujah is one of the most dangerous places for the occupation force. It sits in the “Sunni triangle,” the area north and west of Baghdad where support for Saddam Hussein remains strong.

The 4th Infantry Division, meanwhile, reported a soldier was seriously injured in a mortar attack Monday near Balad, 50 miles north of Baghdad. Division spokeswoman Maj. Josslyn Aberle said she had no other details.

Firefighters yesterday put out a pipeline fire in northern Iraq that had been set by saboteurs a day earlier. It was the fifth such attack on the oil delivery system in less than a month. The acts of sabotage have shut the export pipeline to Turkey and are costing the country an estimated $7 million a day.

In other developments, Iraq’s acting president yesterday called for Turkey to send up to 10,000 peacekeeping troops under a U.N. mandate, provided they deploy far from Kurdish territory.

Entifadh Kanbar, spokesman for Ahmed Chalabi, the member of the Governing Council’s nine-member presidency who is serving for the month of September, also said Mr. Chalabi had been invited by the Turkish government to pay “a very important visit.”

“We are welcoming the participation of Turkish forces under the United Nations resolution … in the western area in Iraq under the condition that this force should not exceed 10,000,” Mr. Kanbar said, referring to a resolution proposed by the United States.

A Turkish force in Iraq is an extremely sensitive issue because of the large Kurdish population near the Turkish border, where some Kurdish rebels took refuge in the mountains after fighting a 15-year rebellion in Turkey.

Turkish Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul said he expects his government to decide this month whether to send in peacekeepers. Parliament would also have to approve the deployment.

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