That attack, along with a car bomb that exploded outside a police headquarters in Samawah, 150 miles south of the capital, Baghdad, were yet more evidence that insurgents have no plans of letting up their attacks even after the U.S. coalition authorities handed over sovereignty to an interim Iraqi government on Monday.
But a report finds that small arms, not military ordnance like mortars, may be a major threat to stability in newly sovereign Iraq.
According to a study published Wednesday, the huge numbers of small arms left behind by Iraq's armed forces after the fall of Saddam Hussein could cause instability in the Middle East for years to come.
"Millions of firearms suddenly flooded a chaotic social landscape," the 335-page Small Arms Survey said. The number of murders using firearms in Baghdad rose dramatically and "the violence became a major barrier to the restoration of legitimate authority."
The Iraqi people currently control an estimated 7-8 million firearms, although the actual number could be much higher, the study said. This makes Iraq "highly but not exceptionally well armed," and it still has fewer firearms per person than countries such as Finland.
"The concern here … is we do not know what proportion of these weapons are military style," Keith Krause, the program director for the survey, told reporters. "Iraq now poses a regional proliferation risk."
In other developments:
Despite the end of the occupation, about 160,000 foreign troops — most of them Americans — remain in Iraq to provide security and train Iraq's new security services. American officials have warned that the transfer of sovereignty would not stop assaults.
Guerrillas struck the logistics base on the edge of Baghdad's airport at about 8:15 a.m., said Lt. Col. Richard Rael, their commander. The base is operated by the New Mexico Army National Guard's 515 Corps Support Battalion.
"We're OK," Rael said. "We'll get back to business as usual."
A pall of black smoke hung over the airport for an hour after one of the 82 mm mortar rounds struck a petroleum products yard. There were no injuries from the fire.
The base has been subject to almost daily mortar attacks, but this was the first time the attacks caused significant casualties and damage.
Two people were wounded in the car bombing in Samawah, which set two other vehicles ablaze, a hospital official said.
Elsewhere, police in the southern city of Basra on Wednesday defused a car bomb targeting a parade of 1,000 officers from various branches of the security services, said Iraqi Police Intelligence Capt. Jassim Mohammed.
He said a car laden with explosives and ordinance was placed about 500 yards away from the parade route.
As of April, about $58 billion in grants, loans, Iraqi assets and revenues has been made available or pledged to reconstruction and relief efforts in post-Saddam Iraq, the General Accounting Office said in a report made public Tuesday.
That includes $24 billion in U.S. funds, $13.6 billion in international pledges and $21 billion largely from sales of Iraqi oil and assets of the former regime that had been frozen or seized by various nations.
Of the $24 billion in American funds, the occupation authority signed contracts and obligated $8.2 billion and actually handed out $3 billion, the GAO report said.
Of the $21 billion in Iraqi money, authorities made commitments for $13 billion and actually spent $8.3 billion, the GAO said. It said complete and reliable information on disbursements of funds from international pledges was not available when it did the report this spring.
The spending has yet to generate the projected reconstruction work. The New York Times reports only 140 of 2,300 proposed construction projects have started and fewer than 20,000 Iraqis have taken up jobs in reconstruction, not the 50,000 that U.S. officials promised.