New Baghdad Bomb; Fate Of Abducted Unclear

Smoke rises from the site of a car bomb in Baghdad, Nov. 15, 2006. AFP/Getty Images/Sabah Arar

Yet another bomb hit Baghdad Wednesday, killing at least eight people and wounding another 32, hours after doubts surfaced about the truth of an earlier report that many of Tuesday's mass kidnapping victims were later released.

The bomb, according to Police Lt. Bilal Ali, was in a car parked near a gas station in the Bab Shargi section of the Iraqi capital.

It happened at about 9:45 a.m.

Also Wednesday, U.S. officials said that a soldier and three more Marines have died – as a result of combat wounds suffered in the Iraqi province of Anbar – which has been a stronghold for insurgents.

Tuesday, as shock spread through Iraq over a mass kidnapping of scientists by abductors said to have been wearing government uniforms, a series of car bombs exploded around Iraq, killing and wounding scores of people.

Suspected Shiite militiamen dressed as Interior Ministry commandos stormed a Higher Education Ministry office Tuesday and kidnapped dozens of people after clearing the area under the guise of providing security for what they claimed would be a visit by the U.S. ambassador.

CBS News correspondent Elizabeth Palmer reports that about 80 men in Iraqi police uniforms surrounded an Iraqi Ministry of Higher Education building in broad daylight and then moved inside, according to witnesses.

There are varying estimates of the number of people kidnapped, but it appeared that at least 50 were seized — one of the largest mass abductions in Iraq.

Authorities said as many as 20 were later released, but said a broadcast report that most hostages were freed appeared to be false.

Witnesses and authorities said the gunmen raced through all four stories of the building, forced men and women into separate rooms, handcuffed the men and loaded them aboard about 20 pickup trucks.

But by the time help arrived, the kidnappers had vanished with their hostages, leaving signs of a struggle, but few clues. As police cordoned off the building, news of the raid spread to relatives — who know very well what happens to most abduction victims in Iraq, Palmer reports.

Shortly afterward, authorities arrested six senior police officers in connection with the abductions — the police chief and five top subordinates in the Karradah district, the central Baghdad region where the kidnappers struck, Interior Ministry spokesman Maj. Gen. Jalil Khalaf said.

In other developments:

  • Prime Minister Tony Blair told the advisory group reviewing strategy on Iraq on Tuesday that a push for peace across the Middle East and help for Baghdad to root out sectarianism in its security forces were key to stemming bloodshed, his official spokesman said.

  • A Marine charged with kidnapping and murdering an Iraqi civilian pleaded not guilty Tuesday in his first court appearance. Cpl. Trent Thomas belonged to a squad of seven Marines and a Navy corpsman who were accused of abducting the 52-year-old man, shooting him at a roadside hole and trying to cover up the killing. Thomas is charged with kidnap, murder, conspiracy, making a false official statement, larceny and housebreaking in the April 26 death of Hashim Ibrahim Awad in Hamdania, west of Baghdad. Two Marines and the corpsman pleaded guilty to reduced charges and agreed to testify about the killing in return for the dropping of other charges. The two Marines are to be sentenced later this week. A fourth member of the squad has made a similar deal and is due in court next week.

  • At least 82 people have been killed or found dead in murders, bombings and clashes across Iraq on Tuesday. A suicide car bomber struck near a mosque in Baghdad's Sadr City Shiite slum, killing at least seven people and wounding 23, police said. The blast was triggered near the Shiite al-Rasoul Mosque, according to police Lt. Col. Thamer al-Gharrawi. Explosions in Sadr City have killed scores of people in the past months part of sectarian violence between members of the country's Shiite majority and Sunnis.

    The assault came on a day that saw at least 117 people die in the mounting disorder and violence gripping the country.

    The abductions in broad daylight raised further questions about Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's commitment to wiping out the heavily armed Shiite militias of his prime political backers: the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, or SCIRI, and the Sadrist Movement of radical, anti-American Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr.
    • Robb Todd

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