Car Bomb Strikes Convoy of Troops From Australia

Times Staff Writer

A car bomb attack on an Australian convoy in central Baghdad led off a series of explosions and gun battles Monday that killed a dozen people throughout Iraq, including a coalition soldier who died when a roadside bomb detonated in western Baghdad, officials reported.

The attacks came as Iraqi interim Prime Minister Iyad Allawi ordered an investigation into the deaths of up to 51 Iraqi army recruits and bus drivers who were ambushed Saturday at a phony checkpoint in Diyala province.

Allawi’s office said it wanted to know why the men, who had just completed basic training, were unarmed when their convoy of minibuses was attacked by gunmen disguised as soldiers in an area near Mandali, about 75 miles northeast of Baghdad.


Some Iraqi officials, including the province’s deputy governor, Aquil Hamid Adili, speculated that the ambush was carried out by insurgents who infiltrated the police and defense forces.

Responsibility for the assault, the deadliest yet on a unit of new Iraqi soldiers, was claimed by followers of Jordanian-born insurgent Abu Musab Zarqawi.

The Baghdad car bomb attack, which occurred about 8 a.m., killed three Iraqi bystanders and injured nine other people, including three Australian soldiers. The convoy was passing through central Baghdad, near the Australian Embassy, when a taxi rigged with a remote-control bomb detonated, according to Iraqi police officials.

The blast, which cut through Hurriya Square, tossed an armored vehicle off the road. Australian troops provide security for diplomatic convoys, but no diplomats were present in the convoy that was attacked, officials said.

In Canberra, the Australian capital, officials said the blast was the first direct attack on their troops’ vehicles.

“Iraq remains a dangerous place, and our troops are equipped, prepared and well led to deal with these safety issues which confront Iraqis and all coalition partners working for a stable Iraq,” Air Marshal Angus Houston, the acting chief of the Australian Defense Forces, said in a statement.


Also in Baghdad, a roadside bomb detonated in a western neighborhood about 11:15 a.m., killing a soldier serving with international forces and wounding five others. News services reported that the dead soldier was Estonian; U.S. military officials said only that the trooper was not an American.

Hidden bombs claimed the lives of three Iraqis in Mosul, a northern city that has seen a recent surge in violence. One explosion occurred in the parking lot of Nineveh province’s government headquarters at 11 a.m.

Authorities said the chairman of the Union of Iraqi National Tribes, Sayyed Saher, had just pulled into the garage and was parking his car when the vehicle exploded, killing him and two bodyguards.

Also in Mosul, a second car bomb injured three people when it detonated near a government motorcade. The blast was apparently aimed at Brig. Gen. Motez Taka of the Iraqi Joint Coordination Center. Taka has survived several assassination attempts in the last two months.

Iraqi police said the explosives were in a taxi parked near a U.S. military base.

In the city of Ramadi, about 60 miles west of Baghdad, fighting between U.S. forces and insurgents resulted in the deaths of five civilians Monday, according to the director of the city’s general hospital, Abdul Moneim Aftan. The fighting began the day before.

Special correspondent Faris Mehdawi, Reuters and Associated Press contributed to this report.