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Bloodshed outside Jordan embassy in Baghdad

Baghdad, Aug. 7 (Reuters): A powerful truck bomb exploded outside the Jordanian embassy compound in Baghdad today, killing 11 people, wounding 65 and leaving burned-out cars and shattered glass scattered nearby.

The motive for the attack was not immediately clear and no group claimed responsibility. The blast occurred one week after Jordan gave asylum to two daughters of Saddam Hussein.

The senior US general in Iraq called it the work of “professional terrorists”.

Captain Ahmad Suleiman of the Iraqi police said at the scene that four civilians were killed in a car caught in the blast and five policemen guarding outside the complex also died.

Hospital sources said later a total of 11 people had been killed and 65 wounded. Weeping relatives queued at a makeshift morgue in a metal shack near a hospital to identify and claim the dead, while survivors marvelled at their own fortune.

“I was still at the information window of the embassy,” said Issam Habib Obeid, an Iraqi whose burned limbs were swathed in bandages after the blast. “Then I felt a tremendous blast, and the ceiling caved in on me, and I woke up here.”

The vehicle that police said had carried the bomb was reduced to charred wreckage. Part of it was blown onto the roof of a neighbouring house, the home owner said. Body parts, including a severed head, were strewn about a wide area and windows within 500 metres were blown out.

Captain Robert Ramsey of the US 1st Armored Division said the bomb exploded at around 0700 GMT). One of the outer walls of the compound had collapsed and several gutted cars smouldered on the street outside. A building inside the complex was slightly damaged.

Lt Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, the US commander in Iraq, said that in terms of casualties it was the worst attack on a non-military target since the end of major combat. Since Washington declared major hostilities over on May 1, 55 American soldiers have been killed in guerrilla attacks.

US soldiers in tanks and Humvee vehicles arrived at the scene to investigate the blast. They cordoned off the area and brought the chief of Iraqi police to help with inquiries.

US secretary of state Colin Powell phoned his Jordanian counterpart and pledged to beef up security around the embassy, a Jordanian foreign ministry source said in Amman.

Jordan condemned the attack and pledged to bring the perpetrators to justice, whoever they were. “This is a cowardly terrorist attack that we condemn in the strongest terms. It will not divert us from our path of support and aid to the Iraqi people on the process of stabilisation,” information minister Nabil al-Sharif said in Amman.

He said there were no reports any embassy staff members had been killed, but some might have been wounded. The charge d’affaires, Damay Haddad, was not at the compound at the time.

Sanchez said the attack showed Iraq was threatened not only by criminals, foreign fighters and Saddam loyalists, but also by “terrorists”.

“This shows that we have some professional terrorists who are operating in this country and that we’re still in a combat zone,” he said.

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