| An Iraqi policeman guards the Spanish embassy in Baghdad. (AFP)
Baghdad, Nov. 4 (Reuters): Several loud explosions rocked central Baghdad this evening, with three coming from the compound where the US-led administration has its headquarters in the Iraqi capital, a guard on the scene said.
Four persons were wounded in the attack, the Pentagon said.
“There were three explosions. Four persons were wounded from the coalition. One was treated on the scene and the other three taken to the 28th Combat Support Hospital,” said army Lieutenant-Colonel James Cassella, a Pentagon spokesman.
US troops in Humvees with powerful spotlights sped to an area near the nearby Tigris river, where several shots of gunfire were heard. “There were a lot of soldiers running around, there was a lot of panic. I haven’t seen any injured people,” said Mohammad Shikri, an Iraqi guard at the complex, told Reuters. Journalists were prevented from entering the area, inside one of Saddam Hussein’s former palace complexes.
Cassella said preliminary reports were unclear on the location of the blasts. “It is not clear whether the explosions were inside or outside the (coalition-controlled) Green Zone,” he said.
He said initial reports suggest they might have been caused by projectiles such as a missile or mortar fire and not a car or truck bomb, but that was not certain. At least one plume of smoke rose from the central Baghdad area for some minutes straight after the blasts, although it later disappeared. The blasts, felt some distance away by Reuters reporters, follow a mortar attack on the area last night that caused no casualties.
The compound lies on the western bank of the Tigris river.
On October 26, guerrillas fired rockets at a hotel inside the US complex while deputy defence secretary Paul Wolfowitz was staying there, killing a US soldier. The following day, 35 people were killed in four suicide attacks at the Red Cross offices and three police stations in Baghdad.
Spain recalls staff
Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar today said that Spain, a close US ally, was recalling some civilian staff from Iraq for consultations.
Those being recalled included some embassy staff as well as Spaniards working with the US-led Coalition Provisional Authority, Aznar said.
In Baghdad, Spanish embassy first secretary Pablo Ruperez, who said staff had left for Jordan, was asked why the decision was taken. “I think it comes after things like the Red Cross bombing,” he said.
Aznar, at a news conference with German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder in Berlin, said: “We have called back the people who work with the authority (CPA), the Spanish experts, and also some of the embassy staff.”
“There is no evacuation. It’s a call for an exchange of opinions and consultations,” he said.