Iraq Army Base Hit; Hostage Freed

Hostage allegedly to be Australian engineer Douglas Wood with rifles pointed at his shaved head, unknown location, video still 2005/5/6 AP

A man wearing a belt packed with explosives killed at least 26 Iraqi soldiers and wounded 26 others on Wednesday when he blew himself up inside a restaurant on an Iraqi army base north of Baghdad, army officials said.

Meanwhile, Iraqi troops, backed by U.S. forces, freed an Australian hostage after more than a month in captivity, officials said Wednesday.

There were no details available on the operation in Baghdad that led to the release of Douglas Wood, a 64-year-old engineer and resident of California, who was abducted in late April by a militant group calling itself the Shura Council of the Mujahedeen of Iraq.

In another suicide attack Wednesday, a car bomber slammed into two police cars on patrol in eastern Baghdad, killing eight police officers. The attack occurred in Baghdad's Zafaraniya neighborhood, according to police Lt. Thaer Mohamoud and 1st Sgt. Mohhamed Fadhil.

The lunchtime army base explosion took place in Khalis, about 12 miles northwest of Baqouba, Iraqi army Col. Saleh al-Obeidi said. Baqouba is 35 miles northeast of Baghdad.

Al-Obeidi said the man was wearing an army uniform and waited until soldiers had gathered for lunch before blowing himself up. The soldiers belonged to the Al-Salam battalion of the 2nd brigade of the Iraqi army in Diyala province.

In other developments:

  • Iraqi legislators seemed close to agreement Wednesday on a demand by Sunni Arabs for more participation in the effort to draft a constitution.

  • Insurgents blew up a pipeline near Baghdad late Tuesday that transports crude between the domestic refineries of Beiji and Doura, a police officer said Wednesday. It was still burning Wednesday, he added.

  • Five Iraqi soldiers were killed and two wounded in a suicide car bombing at a checkpoint in Kan'an, 30 miles north of Baghdad, and the bodies of 24 men — victims of recent insurgent ambushes in the west of the country — were transported to a hospital in the capital.

  • Two U.S. soldiers were killed Tuesday in separate attacks in Baghdad. One soldier was assigned to the 3rd Infantry Division and was killed in a roadside bomb attack in southern Baghdad. The other was serving with the 18th Military Police Brigade and died in a rocket-propelled grenade blast. Two other soldiers were wounded in that attack.

  • Two Marines died in combat operations in western Iraq's volatile Anbar province, the military said. They died as a result of separate roadside bomb blasts in Fallujah, 40 miles west of Baghdad, and near Rutba, a town close to the Jordanian border.

  • Also Tuesday, U.S. Marines and Iraqi soldiers killed five Iraqi civilians at an entrance to the volatile western town of Ramadi, 70 miles west of Baghdad, shortly after a suicide attack on a military checkpoint left one Iraqi soldier dead, the military said.

  • Two Bulgarian soldiers were killed and another injured late Tuesday when their vehicle slid from a dike into a canal about 35 miles southeast Diwaniya, a city in south-central Iraq where about 400 Bulgarian soldiers are serving.
    • Joel Roberts

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