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Polish Ambassador To Iraq Hurt By Bombing

Polish ambassador to Iraq's car after being attacked in Iraq, Oct. 3, 2007.
REUTERS
The Polish ambassador to Iraq was slightly wounded and two people, a Polish body guard and an Iraqi civilian, were killed in a roadside bomb attack Wednesday, according to Polish government officials.

Gen. Edward Pietrzyk was treated for burns, according to Deputy Ambassador Waldemar Figaj, who spoke to The Associated Press from the hospital in Baghdad's Green Zone.

"He is going to be fine," Figaj said of the ambassador.

A civilian passer-by died after at least two roadside bombs were detonated about 10 a.m., according to an Iraqi police official who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to release the information. A Polish security guard, believed to be Pietrzyk's driver, died at the hospital a short time later, said Robert Szaniawski, a spokesman for the Polish Foreign Ministry.

At least 11 people, including three security guards with the convoy, also were wounded in the attack in Karradah in downtown Baghdad, police said. The guards worked for Poland's Government Protection Office, which is responsible for the security of Polish officials in Iraq, the agency's spokesman Dariusz Aleksandrowicz told the AP.

In other developments:

  • A team of FBI investigators departed for Iraq Tuesday night to look into the causes of the Sept. 16 shooting that allegedly killed 11 Iraqi civilians and involved a controversial American private security company, Blackwater, reports Chip Reid. The tragic incident triggered a congressional investigation into the government's reliance on private contractors, who, critics say, are exempt from punishment.
  • Critics say Blackwater guards are trigger-happy, firing from moving vehicles, killing and injuring Iraqi civilians, and accountable to no one.
    (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)
    Its founder and chairman, Erik Prince (left), was on Capitol Hill Tuesday to insist his private security guards are professional and do a difficult and dangerous job well. "I disagree with the assertion that they acted like cowboys," said Prince.
  • There are no details yet, but Defense Secretary Robert Gates says he expects to move on recommendations aimed at strengthening oversight of private security firms in Iraq, such as Blackwater. He ordered a review after last month's incident. "The recommendations from the group look very reasonable to me," Gates said while in El Salvador. CBS News correspondent Steve Kathan reports it's believed the group called for more lawyers and investigators, more involvement from commanders, and a clear chain of accountability.
  • Several high-ranking House Democrats, including David Obey, chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, have suggested an income tax surtax to pay for the Iraq war, as a way to focus the American people on how much the war is costing, reports CBS News Capitol Hill correspondent Bob Fuss. Republicans reacted with horror, but so did top Democrats. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi quickly shot down the tax idea, saying she wants the war to end but won't vote for a big tax hike.
  • Coalition forces in Iraq say that in September, they either killed or captured 29 senior al-Qaeda operatives. "Nine were geographical or functional cell leaders, and 11 were facilitators who supported foreign terrorist and weapons movements," said U.S. military spokesman Major General Kevin Bergner in Baghdad. An operation near Sinjar was especially productive, capturing documents and computer disks with "a list of some 500 foreign terrorists being recruited by al Qaeda, biographies on 143 foreign terrorists who were en route to Iraq or who had already arrived, and the date and route of entry into Iraq."

    Szaniawski said the attack, which took place a few hundred meters from the Polish Embassy, seemed to target the ambassador.

    "We still don't have the reasons for the attack," he said, adding that the embassy is not in the Green Zone.

    U.S. authorities confiscated an AP Television News videotape that contained scenes of the wounded being evacuated. U.S. military spokesman Lt. Col. Scott Bleichwehl told AP the government of Iraq had made it illegal to photograph or videotape the aftermath of bombings or other attacks.

    U.S. officials said Blackwater USA flew the ambassador to the Green Zone for treatment.

    Poland's Prime Minister Jaroslaw Kaczynski said Wednesday's attack would, in no way, weaken his countrymen's resolve to fight terrorism in Iraq.

    "Backing out before terrorists is the worst possible solution and I trust that the Poles, who are a brave nation, will not desert the battle field," he said. "We must fight terrorism and that entails a certain risk."

    U.S. Ambassador Ryan Crocker and U.S. Commander Gen. David Petraeus issued a joint statement condemning the attack.

    "Poland has been a strong and steadfast ally here and around the world, and we commend its commitment to a stable and secure Iraq," the brief statement said. "We stand ready to provide any additional assistance we can."

    U.S. Army and Iraqi troops sealed off al-Arasaat street where the attack took place. "Little Bird" helicopters, the type used by Blackwater USA, were seen flying above the bombing site and U.S. officials confirmed the North Carolina-based company flew the ambassador to the Green Zone for treatment.

    Blackwater has an estimated 1,000 employees in Iraq, and at least $800 million in government contracts. It is one of the most high-profile security firms in Iraq, with its fleet of "Little Bird" helicopters and armed door gunners swarming Baghdad and beyond.

    Despite Blackwater's role in rescuing the Polish Ambassador today, CBS News correspondent Elizabeth Palmer reports that the drama was barely over when Prime Minister Maliki announced that as far as he was concerned, Blackwater's days are numbered. The number of accusations against Blackwater, said Maliki, make it impossible for them to stay in Iraq.

    Two armored sport-utility vehicles were badly damaged and heavily burned, according to AP photos from the scene.

    U.S. authorities confiscated an AP Television News videotape that contained scenes of the wounded being evacuated. U.S. military spokesman Lt. Col. Scott Bleichwehl told the AP the government of Iraq had made it illegal to photograph or videotape the aftermath of bombings or other attacks.

    (AP)
    Pietrzyk, 57, who was formerly commander of land forces in Poland, was appointed ambassador to Iraq in April, Szaniawski said. He studied in the Soviet Union in the late 1980s, and spent two years at the National Defense University in Washington D.C. He then served as commander of Polish land forces from 2000 until 2006.

    Poland, a staunch U.S. ally, contributed combat troops to the 2003 U.S.-led war in Iraq, and has since led a multinational division south Baghdad. About 900 Polish troops are currently stationed there training Iraqi personnel; 21 have died during the conflict.

    Last year, the Polish government extended its mission in Iraq until the end of 2007, leaving a decision on further extensions for later this year.