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Iraq: Suicide Car Bomb Underscores Continuing Violence

The violence in Iraq continues. Today a bomb exploded near the United Nations headquarters in Baghdad. A member of the Iraqi Governing Council was seriously injured in a shooting attack on 20 September; several more U.S. soldiers were killed during the weekend.

Prague, 22 September 2003 (RFE/RL) -- In Iraq, attacks are continuing against U.S. forces in Iraq and apparently with anyone who cooperates with U.S.-led coalition authorities.

The latest attack came this morning. A suicide car bomber blew himself up near the UN headquarters in Baghdad, killing an Iraqi security guard. Some 17 people, mostly Iraqi guards, were said to be wounded.

U.S. Army spokesman Sean Kirley, speaking just after the incident, gave the preliminary casualty figures: "The bomb went off in a car killing two individuals: one that was the bomber and it appears that there was one Iraqi security personnel at the time. There have been approximately six to eight injuries; all of those individuals have been evacuated for medical treatment. Coalition and local security forces have secured the area. The bomb went off approximately 250 meters from the UN building."

Later in the day, UN spokeswoman Antonia Pradela read out a statement by a senior UN official, Kevin Kennedy, saying the "incident once again underlines that Iraq remains a war zone and a high-risk environment, particularly for those working to improve the lives of Iraqi people."

Today's bombing sends a message that the UN remains a target more than a month after the 19 August bombing of its Baghdad headquarters, where 22 people were killed including head of mission Sergio Vieira de Mello.

Today's bombing is only the latest attack in a string of violent incidents.

On 20 September, unknown gunmen shot and wounded a member of the U.S. appointed Iraqi Governing Council. Aqilah al-Hashimi was attacked while leaving her house in Baghdad. She has since undergone two operations and is reportedly in critical but stable condition. It was the first direct attack on a member of the Governing Council.

Al-Hashimi is one of three women on the Governing Council and is believed to be a leading candidate to become Iraq's UN ambassador if the interim government wins approval to take the country's UN seat.

Current Governing Council President Ahmad Chalabi blamed remnants of the regime of deposed President Saddam Hussein for the attack.

Jeremy Binnie is the Gulf States editor for "Jane's Intelligence Review." He says the attack did not come out of the blue -- earlier there were serious threats against the members of the council.

"There'd been sorts of attacks before against bodies that are represented, obviously with [Baqir] Hakim, his brother was on the council, and I believe there's been a lot of threats. But I think this is the first actual direct assassination attempt against one of the members of Governing Council. So, it does mark a bit of an escalation in the respect," Binnie said.

Shi'ite leader Muhammad Baqir al-Hakim was killed in a bomb blast in the holy city of Al-Najaf last month. Hakim's brother, Abdel-Aziz al-Hakim, is a member of the Governing Council.

Supporters of al-Hakim blamed the U.S. troops, saying they did not do enough to protect him and bring more security to the country.

However, Binnie says U.S. troops can do little to guarantee the security of the members of the Governing Council: "Some of these individuals don't want to be tainted by being seen to be too close to the U.S.-led coalition forces in the country. So, having sort of American special forces guarding is not acceptable for some of these individuals."

Binnie says crime is one of the major issues contributing to the problem of insecurity. He says criminal elements are allied with former members of the regime, making the task of combating crime very difficult.