July 26, 2004
BAGHDAD, Iraq - A suicide car bomber attacked near a U.S. base in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul, assassins gunned down a senior Interior Ministry official, and militants said they kidnapped two Jordanian truck drivers in spiraling violence that left eight people dead on Monday.
Employees leaving the base in Mosul said a Chevrolet sedan drove up and exploded about 50 yards from the gates, setting nearby cars on fire.
"It was a suicide operation," base employee Imad Joseph told The Associated Press.
U.S. military spokeswoman Capt. Angela M. Bowman said a woman and a child standing nearby and an Iraqi guard were killed. Three U.S. soldiers and two Iraqi guards were injured. Mosul has been the scene of numerous terrorist attacks, including two car bombings in January and June that each killed nine people.
The crises were the latest in a wave of attacks against coalition forces and abductions of foreigners designed to pressure countries to withdraw their troops from Iraq and to hamper efforts to rebuild the country.
George Sada, spokesman for interim Prime Minister Ayad Allawi, said the abductions were affecting Iraq's reconstruction because some countries were now preventing their citizens - laborers and experts alike - from coming to help. Still, the kidnappings "might delay the process but they are not going to stop it," he said.
Many of those abducted have been truck drivers bringing needed supplies. Adel Abou Hawili, a manager for Kuwait's Al-Roomi Shipping Agency, said the wave of kidnappings has forced transport costs up "50 to 65 percent" and made it harder to find drivers to work in Iraq.
Amid the latest abductions, many blamed the Philippines' decision a week ago to withdraw troops as militants demanded to secure the release of captured Filipino truck driver Angelo dela Cruz. Since dela Cruz's release last Tuesday, 12 foreigners - including an Egyptian diplomat - have been kidnapped by four different groups. A top Iraqi businessman was also seized.
"We've seen since the Philippines government acceded to the demands of the terrorists a whole spate of new hostage taking," Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer said. "And I'm afraid that's what inevitably is going to happen in those circumstances."
Sada also expressed regret at the Philippines decision: "We think that to bow to the terrorists' threats is the wrong policy."
Militants holding the two Jordanian drivers threatened to kill them in 72 hours if their Jordanian employer did not stop doing business with the American military. Their company, Daoud and Partners, works in construction and catering in Iraq.
In a video obtained by Associated Press Television News, the men, identified as Fayez Saad al-Udwan and Ahmed Salama Hassan, said they were being treated well and pleaded with their company to meet the kidnappers' demands. Hassan called on all Arabs and Muslims "not to deal with the Americans and to aid the militants." Al-Udwan said he was "regretful," and if he could turn back time he would not have worked with the company.
In two other videos aired Monday on Arab television, militants said they had abducted two Pakistanis and an Iraqi driver, and separate kidnappers extended a deadline for their demands to be met for the release of seven foreign drivers - three Kenyans, three Indians and an Egyptian. It was unclear how long the deadline had been extended.
The drivers' employer, the Kuwait and Gulf Link Transport Co., said militants have not demanded a ransom, and that it was confident that "Iraqi friends" involved in negotiations would help secure their release.
In the capital, a suspected car bomb exploded near the eastern entrance to the Sarafiya Bridge downtown, according to an Associated Press photographer at the scene. At least three Iraqi civilians suffered minor injuries.
Also, at least two mortars struck the former Higher Education Ministry near Baghdad's central Saddoun Street, Interior Ministry official Maj. Mushtaq Abbas said. He told AP the building was under renovation and no casualties were reported. U.S. military officials had no immediate comment.
In Basra, insurgents killed two Iraqi women working as cleaners for British forces in southern Iraq and seriously injured two others, police and hospital officials said.
Basra police Lt. Col. Ali Kadhem said gunmen drove alongside the women's car and shot them as they drove to work at Basra airport, used as a base for British forces.
Insurgents have routinely targeted Iraqis working for coalition forces, describing them as collaborators with occupation troops. Angered by foreign-based troops on Iraqi soil, militants also have become bolder in their violent campaign to get countries to withdraw.
In the latest assassination of an Iraqi politician, Col. Musab al-Awadi and his guards had just left his house in al-Baya neighborhood in Baghdad when gunmen shot them dead in a drive-by attack, according to Sabah Kadhim, an Interior Ministry spokesman. Al-Awadi was ministry's deputy chief of tribal affairs.
A group calling itself the Islamic Army in Iraq announced it had kidnapped the two Pakistanis and an Iraqi contract driver. In a video aired on Al-Jazeera, the group said it had sentenced the captives to death because Pakistan was discussing sending troops to Iraq. It did not say when it would kill them.
The Pakistani government had declared the two men, Raja Azad, 49, an engineer, and Sajad Naeem, 29, a driver, missing over the weekend. They work for the Kuwait-based al-Tamimi group in Baghdad, said Masood Khan, a spokesman for Pakistan's Foreign Ministry. Militants also warned the company to stop doing business in Iraq or it would kill more of its employees.
Part of the video shows identity cards belonging to the hostages. Also shown is a photograph of three men - one apparently one of the hostages - standing with Brig. Gen. Mark Kimmitt, a former senior U.S. military official in Iraq.
In Pakistan, Naeem's parents pleaded for the hostage takers to spare their son's life. "If they release him, he will leave Iraq. He will not work there," said Mohammed Naeem, 56.