- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 24, 2005

BAGHDAD — A suicide car bomber targeted U.S. troops handing out toys to children at a hospital yesterday, killing 30 persons including four police guards, three women and two children, officials said.

Another 35 persons were wounded in the morning attack in Mahmoudiya, about 20 miles south of Baghdad, said Dawoud al-Taie, the director of the hospital.

Elsewhere, Thanksgiving celebrations for more than 140,000 U.S. troops in Iraq were dampened by the announcement that three U.S. soldiers from Task Force Baghdad died of gunshot wounds suffered Wednesday, and a fourth died of wounds suffered Wednesday from a roadside bomb in Hit, 85 miles west of Baghdad.

The suicide bomber in Mahmoudiya was targeting U.S. military vehicles parked near the hospital, said Iraqi army Capt. Ibrahim Abdeallah. He said two U.S. soldiers were wounded and one Humvee was damaged.

The U.S. soldiers were distributing toys to children in the hospital, said police Maj. Falah al-Mohammedawi.

“It was an explosion at the gate of the hospital,” said one woman who had wounds on her face and legs. “My children are gone. My brother is gone.”

Mahmoudiya is a religiously mixed town in the so-called “Triangle of Death,” a region known for attacks on coalition forces and Shi’ites moving through the area to visit shrines south of the region.

A car bomb also exploded yesterday evening near a crowded soft-drink stand in the Shi’ite city of Hillah, 60 miles south of Baghdad, killing at least two persons, police Capt. Muthanna Khalid said.

Hillah frequently has been targeted by suicide bombers, but it was not clear whether the latest blast was such an attack. On Feb. 28, a suicide car bomber killed 125 persons in Hillah — the deadliest single strike since the fall of Saddam Hussein.

Despite the violence, most American soldiers were able to sit down to a traditional Thanksgiving meal of turkey and trimmings at their bases yesterday. In Baghdad, they were visited by U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad, who called their service “a huge sacrifice, but a sacrifice for a good cause.”

President Bush called from his Texas ranch to 10 members of the U.S. armed services in Iraq, Afghanistan and, in one case, a ship at sea.

White House spokeswoman Dana Perino said the president “wished them all a happy Thanksgiving and thanked them on behalf of the American people.” He “told them they were all patriots and asked them to pass along his wishes to their fellow service members,” she said.

Soldiers in Baghdad ran a 5-kilometer “Turkey Trot” race, then sat down to a large spread including turkey, ham, mashed potatoes, stuffing, sweet potatoes, shrimp cocktail and about five kinds of pie for dessert.

North of Baghdad, country music star Aaron Tippin was scheduled to give a concert to soldiers from the 101st Airborne Division at Forward Operating Base Speicher.

Today, it will be back to business as U.S. and Iraqi forces brace for a rise in insurgent and terrorist attacks ahead of the Dec. 15 parliamentary elections.

“Muslim extremists and Saddam’s criminals” will be making their last stand, government spokesman Laith Kubba warned yesterday.

On a more hopeful note, the presidential security adviser said several insurgent groups have contacted President Jalal Talabani’s office in the past few days to respond to his call for them to lay down their arms and join the political process.

“Many groups have called, and some of them clearly expressed the readiness to join the political process,” Lt. Gen. Wafiq al-Samaraei said. This shows that “the initiative was welcomed by Iraqis.”

Some residents of Anbar province said four insurgent groups active in that area were conferring among themselves to choose a representative to meet government officials.

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