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Iraq: At Least 20 Dead In UN Baghdad Bombing, Including Vieira De Mello

Baghdad, 19 August 2003 (RFE/RL) -- The United Nations says a truck bomb at the UN's Iraq headquarters killed more than a dozen staff members, including Sergio Vieira de Mello, the UN's top official in Iraq. At least 100 people were reported injured. De Mello had been trapped by debris in his office, and had been communicating over his cellular telephone before dying of his injuries.

UN chief spokesman Fred Eckhard read a statement from vacationing UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan saying that everyone in the organization is "shocked and dismayed" by the attack.

"Nothing can excuse this act of unprovoked an murderous violence against men and women who went to Iraq for one purpose only -- to help the Iraqi people recover their independence and sovereignty and to rebuild their country as fast as possible, under leaders of their own choosing," the statement read.

Bernard Kerik, the former New York City police commissioner who is rebuilding the Iraqi police force, said the attack was a suicide bombing. He said it evidently involved a truck loaded with what he called an enormous amount of explosives. Kerik said he lacked any evidence to say that the attack was related to the Al-Qaeda terrorist group, or was not.

In New York, the UN Security Council called a special session.

L. Paul Bremer, the top U.S. official in Iraq, walked through the scene of the destruction. Workers, covered with blood, dug through the rubble trying to find people. The explosion created a 15-meter-wide crater. The blast came 12 days after a car-bomb attack on the Jordanian Embassy in Baghdad killed 11 people.