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Iraq: Bomb Blasts In Baghdad, North Kill More Than A Dozen

1 June 2004 -- Two powerful bomb blasts -- one in Baghdad and one outside a U.S. military compound in northern Iraq -- killed more than a dozen people today.

In Baghdad, a car bomb tore through the headquarters of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), one of Iraq's main Kurdish parties, as the new Iraqi government was announced. It is not clear how many people were killed in the blast. Reuters quoted an Iraqi policeman, Sattar Jabar, as saying he had seen at least 25 bodies.

But Lieutenant Colonel Robert Campbell, a U.S. officer at the scene, said only three people were confirmed dead and 20 wounded. Campbell said the blast, which occurred early this afternoon, was caused by a car bomb, but that it is not known whether it was a suicide attack.

U.S. forces cordoned off the area as ambulances rushed to the blast zone. The PUK offices are located close to Iraq's Foreign Ministry and to an entrance to the "Green Zone" compound where the U.S.-led administration in Iraq is based.

Shooting reportedly was heard after the explosion.

Reports say the explosion caused a 3-meter-wide crater at the entrance to the building. Officials say a party to mark the 30th anniversary of the founding of the PUK had been scheduled in the building and that it was packed with people when the bomb exploded.

Ambulances raced to the scene, and U.S. troops cordoned off the area, while coalition aircraft could be heard flying over Baghdad.

The PUK is seen as being close to the United States. Under the leadership of Jalal Talabani, the party was one of the main anti-Saddam Hussein forces on Iraqi soil after the first Gulf War in 1991. Fighters from the party backed U.S. troops in last year's invasion.

A PUK spokesman said Talabani, who holds a seat on the Governing Council, was not in the offices when the blast occurred. It is not immediately known whether other top PUK officials were in the building at the time of the blast.

The explosion at the PUK offices was the most powerful in a series of blasts reported in Baghdad today. They came as Sunni Muslim tribal leader Ghazi Mashal Ajil al-Yawir was named Iraq's first president since Hussein was deposed in a U.S.-led invasion last year. However, it is unclear whether the blasts were related to al-Yawir's nomination.

Other bomb attacks have recently targeted top Iraqi officials working with the U.S.-led coalition. On 17 May, a suicide car bomb in Baghdad killed Abd al-Zahra Uthman Muhammad, also known as Izz al-Din Salim, a Shi'a Muslim who was the head of Iraq's Governing Council.

On 22 May, another suicide car bomb in Baghdad killed at least five people. Iraqi Interior Ministry Undersecretary Abd al-Jabbar Yusuf Shaykhli was wounded in that attack.

Earlier today, a blast near a U.S. military base in northern Iraq killed at least 11 Iraqis, including seven members of the Iraqi Civil Defense Corps, and wounded 23. Two U.S. soldiers were wounded and evacuated to a combat hospital, together with 16 injured Iraqis.

U.S. military spokesman Captain Bill Coppernoll said the blast occurred around 9 a.m. local time outside the gates of the 1st Infantry Division's forward operating base in the town of Beiji, an oil-refining town some 250 kilometers north of Baghdad.

(compiled from wire reports)