- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 25, 2008

BAGHDAD (AP) - A bomb struck a district council building Tuesday in Baghdad’s Shi’ite militia stronghold of Sadr City, killing at least nine people, including four Americans - two soldiers and two government employees, U.S. and Iraqi officials said.

U.S. troops captured a suspect who tested positive for explosive residue after fleeing the scene, military said. It blamed Shi’ite extremists for the attack.

The explosion occurred a day after a suspected Sunni gunman opened fire on U.S. soldiers attending a municipal council meeting in Madain, southeast of Baghdad, killing two of the troops and wounding three others. An interpreter was also killed in that attack.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, in Berlin for an international conference to help Palestinians, called Tuesday’s attack a terrible reminder of the dangers Americans face as they work to help rebuild the country and “advancing our critical foreign policy goals.”

The blast took place in the office of the council’s deputy chief as Americans and Iraqi officials were gathered about half an hour before a meeting to elect a new chairman, said Hassan Karim, Sadr City’s top administrator.

Mr. Karim said he was sitting in his office, located at the same building and about 50 yards from the targeted office, when the bomb exploded. He said he ran out of his office and found the corridors engulfed in smoke.

The district council office, in a southern section of Sadr City, is largely controlled by U.S. and Iraqi troops following weeks of fighting amid a government crackdown against the militias.

Deputy council chief Hassan Hussein Shammah, who was thought to be the attack’s main target, was wounded in his leg.

The U.S. military said one soldier was wounded in addition to the two soldier fatalities. U.S. Embassy spokeswoman Mirembe Nantongo said the dead Americans included one State Department and one Defense Department employee.

In addition, an Italian of Iraqi origin who was working as an interpreter for the Americans was killed, according to the Italian Foreign Ministry.

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