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Baghdad Tense After Bombing

Robin Sonderling of Sweden reacts after defeating Rafal Nadal of Spain in their ATP World Tour Finals tennis match at the O2 Arena in London, Monday, Nov. 23, 2009. Sonderling won the match 6-4, 6-4.
AP Photo/Alastair Grant
Three blasts rocked Baghdad Thursday. Only one was intended to harm, but each reflected part of the struggle to restore order in the Iraqi capital.

A bomb attack on a hotel where NBC-TV had operations killed a Somali night watchman and wounded a Canadian sound engineer.

A blast heard downtown was caused by a trash fire, witnesses said. And a huge explosion heard at midday in the direction of the Canal Hotel, headquarters for the United Nations in Baghdad, turned out to be a controlled explosion of captured Iraqi ordnance.

Also Thursday, a member of Iraq's U.S.-appointed Governing Council died of wounds suffered in an ambush last week, marking the first time Iraq's violence has claimed the life of member of the U.S.-appointed administration.

In the north, eight American soldiers were wounded — three of them seriously — when their convoy was ambushed Thursday with roadside bombs and small arms fire in a western district of Mosul, Iraq's third-largest city. The commander of U.S. forces in Iraq warned he would use whatever force necessary to defeat those who attack American soldiers.

The tenuous security situation promoted U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan on Thursday to order a further reduction in U.N. international staff in Iraq following two bombings at U.N. headquarters, including one on Aug. 19 that killed 22 people.

In other developments:

  • President Bush has failed to win international support for a U.N. resolution designed to bring fresh peacekeeping troops and financial support. As a result, the Pentagon is considering a call-up of more reserves and National Guard units.
  • Russian President Vladimir Putin told the U.N. General Assembly on Thursday that Iraq would not find a "worthy place" in the world community unless the United Nations played a lead role in its reconstruction.
  • Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez said U.S. troops had done nothing wrong when they mistakenly killed eight Iraqi policemen near Fallujah earlier this month and when they called in a helicopter airstrike on a farm in al-Sajr earlier this week.
  • The White House was on the defensive over a preliminary CIA report that indicated no weapons of mass destruction have been found during almost four months of searching in Iraq. Spokesman Scott McClellan says Mr. Bush still believes actual chemical and or biological weapons will be discovered in Iraq.
  • Senate Democrats accused the Bush administration Thursday of trying to ram an $87 billion Iraq-Afghanistan money bill through Congress without giving lawmakers enough time to consider it.

    The U.S. administrator in Iraq, L. Paul Bremer, told a Senate panel that delays in the $87 billion request could undermine U.S. operations and eventually hurt national security.

    "We need to move urgently to head off a problem of not being able to have essential services and security for Iraq," Bremer told the Senate Armed Services Committee.

    Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, a Democrat, said the administration failed to provide details of its plans for Iraq and that a timetable offered to lawmakers was inadequate.

    "This is an insult to the troops and an insult to the Congress," he said. "We want to know where the policy is."

    Gen. John Abizaid, chief of U.S. Central Command, said the United States needs to have some flexibility in its strategy. "You always run the risk when you set a timetable, to send the wrong signals," he said.

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

    Aquila al-Hashimi, one of three women on the 25-member Governing Council and the leading candidate to become Iraq's ambassador to the United Nations, died in a U.S. military hospital five days after she was ambushed by six men in a pickup truck on a street near her Baghdad home. She was to have attended the annual meeting of the U.N. General Assembly in New York this week.

    The current council president, Ahmad Chalabi, blamed the attack on Saddam loyalists although no arrests have been made.

    It was the first attack on a member of the ruling council since it was appointed in July by the U.S. administrator for Iraq, L. Paul Bremer. Al-Hashimi, who will be buried Friday, came from a prominent Shiite Muslim family and had served in the Iraqi Foreign Ministry during the regime of ousted leader Saddam Hussein.

    Al-Hashimi, 50 and unmarried, was the only official of the former regime to be appointed to the new, U.S.-appointed leadership.