Bomb Rocks Iraqi Market as UN Cuts Staff is Cut

baghdad, Iraq – A mortar blast at a market north of Baghdad killed eight civilians Thursday after the UN an­nounced plans to scale back its in­ternational staff because of the violence. Iraqis prepared Fri­day to bury an assassinated member of Iraq’s Governing Council, the first leading administration figure to succumb to the vio­lence roiling this country five months after the ouster of Saddam Hus­sein.

The blast occurred about 9 pm Thursday at a market in Baqou­ba, about 50 km north of Baghdad. Eight civilians died and 18 were injured, the US Army said.

Also, a US soldier from the 173rd Air­borne Brigade was killed and two others were wounded during an ambush in northern Iraq, the US military said Friday.

Iraqi leaders prepared to bury Aquila al-Hashimi, one of three women on the 25-mem­ber Gov­ern­ing Council, who died Thurs­day of wounds suffered in an ambush Sept 20 near her home. The inability of the US-led coalition to stop the violence was be­hind a decision Thursday by UN Secretary-General Kofi An­nan to order a further reduction of UN international staff in Iraq.

In Washington, US teams in Iraq have uncovered some signs that a participant in the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center  in New York may have received help from the government of Saddam Hussein after the bombing, US administration officials said.

US Vice President Dick Cheney first asserted that one of the bomb­ers—a US citizen—received help from Iraq, although he offered little detail. Another US official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said it was too soon to reach any conclusions.

Cheney, speaking Sept 14 on US television, did not mention the suspect by name. Other officials have confirmed he was speaking of Abdul Rahman Yasin, who is ac­cused of mixing the chemicals in the bomb used in the 1993 attack.

Cheney’s comments came after he was asked about Iraqi connections to al-Qaida and the Sept 11 attacks that destroyed the World Trade Center.

But the first bombing at the center is not precisely considered an al-Qaida operation by US counterterrorism officials.

“And we have learned subsequent to that, since we got into Baghdad and got into the intelligence files, that this individual probably also received financing from the Iraqi government, as well as safe haven,” Cheney said.

Yasin fled the country after the 1993 bombing. He is the only man wanted for that attack who is still not U.S. custody.

Saddam’s regime said it had imprisoned Yasin since arresting him in 1994, and that offers to turn him over to the U.S. government were rebuffed in the weeks before the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq.

In 2002, Yasin was interviewed by CBS television at an Iraqi prison. He thus far has not turned up in postwar Iraq.

The U.S. official said some Iraqi intelligence files indeed suggested Iraqi support for Yasin after the 1993 bombing. But the official said it was too early to conclude what, if any, support he received.

Other U.S. officials contacted by The Associated Press would not expound on Cheney’s assertion. Cheney’s office did not return a call seeking comment.

Cheney said the man was Iraqi. In fact, Yasin, 43, was born in the United States and holds U.S. citizenship, according to the FBI. He is of Iraqi heritage and moved there as a child, returning to the United States in 1992, according to the FBI.

“Now, is there a connection between the Iraqi government and the original World Trade Center bombing in ’93?” Cheney said. “We know, as I say, that one of the perpetrators of that act did in fact receive support from the Iraqi government after the fact.”

At the time, al-Qaida was in its formative stages in Sudan, and officials said they know of no conclusive evidence that ties either Osama bin Laden or the Iraqi government to the attack.

Instead, some of the terrorists who carried out the bombing would later ally themselves with bin Laden’s organization. Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, the alleged Sept. 11 mastermind, was connected financially to the 1993 attack; he and bomber Ramzi Yousef would later receive financial support from bin Laden’s brother-in-law.

U.S. officials also offered no evidence Yasin took part in terrorist activity after he went to Iraq following the 1993 bombing.

The administration of President George W. Bush has often tried to rhetorically link al-Qaida with Iraq, particularly as it made its case to invade the country. President Bush, though, said last week there was no evidence that Saddam was involved in the 2001 attacks.

[AP World Services]

BC-ME-GEN—Iraq, 1st Ld-Writethru€

Iraq’s violence claims victim on ruling council; 8 Iraqis killed in market explosion€

By ROBERT H. REID

Associated Press Writer

BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) _ A mortar blast at a market north of Baghdad killed eight civilians after the United Nations announced plans to scale back its international staff because of the ongoing violence. Iraqis prepared Friday to bury an assassinated member of Iraq’s Governing Council, the first leading administration figure to succumb to the violence roiling this country five months after the ouster of Saddam Hussein.

The blast occurred about 9 p.m. Thursday at a market in Baqouba, about 50 kilometers (30 miles) north of Baghdad. Eight civilians died and another 18 were injured, the U.S. Army said. Troops of the U.S. 4th Infantry Division rushed to the scene to help in the rescue.

In Baghdad, Iraqi leaders prepared to bury Aquila al-Hashimi, one of three women on the 25-member Governing Council, who died Thursday of wounds suffered in an ambush near her home Sept. 20. She was the first member of the council targeted for assassination and was the leading candidate to become Iraq’s ambassador to the United Nations. She was to have attended the annual meeting of the U.N. General Assembly in New York this week.

The council declared three days of mourning that began Thursday and said al-Hashimi “fell as a martyr on the path of freedom and democracy to build this great nation. She died at the hands of a clique of infidels and cunning people who only know darkness.” The current council president, Ahmad Chalabi, blamed her death on Saddam loyalists.

Al-Hashimi died on a day when violence blamed on opponents of the U.S.-led occupation targeted both Iraqis and foreigners alike. Early Thursday, a bomb damaged a hotel housing the offices of the U.S. network NBC News, raising fears of attacks against international media. A Somali guard was killed and an NBC sound engineer was slightly wounded in the early morning explosion at the small al-Aike Hotel in the city’s fashionable Karrada district.

In the north, meanwhile, eight American soldiers were wounded _ three seriously _ when their convoy was ambushed with roadside bombs and small arms fire in Mosul, Iraq’s third-largest city. At least two Iraqi bystanders were also injured..

The commander of U.S. forces in Iraq, Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, warned he would use whatever force necessary to defeat those who attack American soldiers.

The inability of the U.S.-led coalition to stop the violence was behind a decision Thursday by U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan to order a further reduction of U.N. international staff in Iraq. Annan’s order came days after the second bombing outside U.N. headquarters in Baghdad on Monday killed an Iraqi policeman and injured 19 others.

The first bombing, Aug. 19, killed 22 people at the Baghdad headquarters. At that time, there were about 300 international staff in Baghdad and another 300 elsewhere in Iraq, and Annan ordered the number reduced to 42 in Baghdad and 44 in the north.

U.S. spokesman Fred Eckhard said he did not know how many international staffers would leave for Amman, Jordan, under the latest order. They are to depart within the next two days.

“This is not an evacuation, just a further downsizing and the security situation in the country remains under constant review,” Eckhard said.

Eckhard announced the new cuts as the Security Council debates a new resolution the United States hopes will bring new troops and money to Iraq. Opponents of the U.S.-led war in Iraq _ including France, Germany and Russia _ are calling for the United Nations to take over the political transition and are demanding a speedier timetable for the handover of power than the United States has proposed.

Coalition forces toppled the regime in April but have been facing a guerrilla-style insurgency, especially in areas dominated by the minority Sunni Muslim community. U.S. President George W. Bush declared an end to major combat on May 1; since then, 85 Americans and 12 Britons have been killed in hostile encounters.

Sanchez, the U.S. commander, said “terrorist elements” were “targeting the international community, targeting the Iraqi people and targeting coalition forces.”

Bush is struggling to win international support for a U.N. resolution designed to bring fresh peacekeeping troops and financial support.

U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell claimed some success Thursday in forging a consensus at the United Nations on nation-building in Iraq. “We are seeing some convergence of views,” he said after a five-power meeting.

In the days head, Powell said, the Bush administration “will be looking at language” to alter the proposed U.S. resolution, which has been stalemated by objections that the United States was not willing to yield sufficient authority to the United Nations.

Meanwhile, U.S. defense officials were considering a call-up of more troops. There are 130,000 American troops in Iraq, supported by several thousand peacekeepers from Britain, Poland and other supporting countries.

But Les Brownlee, the acting secretary of the U.S. Army, said after discussions with Sanchez that the United States had enough troops in Iraq.

“In terms of numbers of forces, as I’ve said the commanders feel like they have enough but I think it would help if the Iraqis saw troops from other nations here,” he said Thursday in Tikrit.

___

Associated Press writer Patrick Quinn contributed to this report from Tikrit, Iraq. Annan’s order came days after the second bombing outside U.N. headquarters in Baghdad on Monday killed an Iraqi policeman and injured 19 others.

The first bombing, Aug. 19, killed 22 people at the Baghdad headquarters. At that time, there were about 300 international staff in Baghdad and another 300 elsewhere in Iraq, and Annan ordered the number reduced to 42 in Baghdad and 44 in the north.

U.S. spokesman Fred Eckhard said he did not know how many international staffers would leave for Amman, Jordan, under the latest order. They are to depart within the next two days.

“This is not an evacuation, just a further downsizing and the security situation in the country remains under constant review,” Eckhard said.

Eckhard announced the new cuts as the Security Council debates a new resolution the United States hopes will bring new troops and money to Iraq. Opponents of the U.S.-led war in Iraq _ including France, Germany and Russia _ are calling for the United Nations to take over the political transition and are demanding a speedier timetable for the handover of power than the United States has proposed.

Coalition forces toppled the regime in April but have been facing a guerrilla-style insurgency, especially in areas dominated by the minority Sunni Muslim community. U.S. President George W. Bush declared an end to major combat on May 1; since then, 85 Americans and 12 Britons have been killed in hostile encounters.

Sanchez, the U.S. commander, said “terrorist elements” were “targeting the international community, targeting the Iraqi people and targeting coalition forces.”

Bush is struggling to win international support for a U.N. resolution designed to bring fresh peacekeeping troops and financial support.

U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell claimed some success Thursday in forging a consensus at the United Nations on nation-building in Iraq. “We are seeing some convergence of views,” he said after a five-power meeting.

In the days head, Powell said, the Bush administration “will be looking at language” to alter the proposed U.S. resolution, which has been stalemated by objections that the United States was not willing to yield sufficient authority to the United Nations.

Meanwhile, U.S. defense officials were considering a call-up of more troops. There are 130,000 American troops in Iraq, supported by several thousand peacekeepers from Britain, Poland and other supporting countries.

But Les Brownlee, the acting secretary of the U.S. Army, said after discussions with Sanchez that the United States had enough troops in Iraq.

“In terms of numbers of forces, as I’ve said the commanders feel like they have enough but I think it would help if the Iraqis saw troops from other nations here,” he said Thursday in Tikrit.

___

Associated Press writer Patrick Quinn contributed to this report from Tikrit, Iraq.

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