SLUG: 2-306262 Baghdad / Blast (L)
TITLE=BAGHDAD/BLAST UPDATE (L)
/// EDS: UPDATES CR 2-306261 INTRO WITH NEW DEATH TOLL.///
INTRO: A powerful car bomb exploded outside the Jordanian Embassy in Baghdad Thursday killing at least 11 people and injuring dozens. The head of coalition forces in Iraq has called it a terrorist bombing. V-O-A's Dale Gavlak visited the scene in Baghdad and filed this report.
TEXT: Charred frames that were once cars and bits of broken glass and human remains litter the ground outside the Jordanian Embassy in Baghdad.
Buildings, like Maan Sabieh's home, across the street from the embassy - some 70 meters away - suffered significant damage. Doors were blown off and windows smashed. He says a lot of innocent people, just bystanders and others in cars going to work, were harmed.
/// ACT OF GLASS AND SABIEH ACT ///
They destroyed everything. This is a very bad operation. It is a very bad thing. The people died there. People go to work. Our houses are destroyed. My son was injured.
/// END ACT ///
Shocked residents gathered to try to figure out what had happened.
/// ACT OF CROWD ///
They say they had not seen anything suspicious in the area just before the blast. But groups of young Iraqis were also found stomping on the portraits of the Jordanian royal family soon after the explosion.
The U-S military has cordoned off the area with armored vehicles. The U-S commander on the scene says it is not clear whether it was a suicide bombing or whether the bomb was detonated remotely.
But the officer, Lieutenant Colonel Eric Nantz, says one thing is clear.
/// NANTZ ACT ///
It was a lot of Iraqis that were killed, not Jordanians.
/// END ACT ///
The chief of coalition forces in Iraq, Lieutenant General Ricardo Sanchez, speaking to reporters, called the blast the worst so-called soft target since Baghdad fell to coalition troops on April ninth. But he ruled out that this was a new tactic. He says other such bombings have taken place in different parts of the country over the past two months.
/// SANCHEZ ACT ///
We have seen vehicle-borne incendiary devices before, and what this tells us is that we in fact have some professional terrorists that are operating here in the country.
/// END ACT ///
/// OPT /// It is still unknown who carried out the attack or why. /// END OPT ///
Tensions between the neighboring countries have been high due to Jordan's support for the U-S-led war on Iraq. Last week, Jordan's King Abdullah granted humanitarian asylum to two daughters of Saddam Hussein.
Also Thursday, a fierce gun battle took place in central Baghdad, with U-S soldiers firing into a two-story building after their Humvee (vehicle) came under rocket-propelled grenade attack. Before taking the building, the military allowed some 20 civilians inside to surrender.
In a separate incident, the U-S Central Command announced two soldiers were killed the night before in a firefight in the Al-Rashid section of Baghdad.
Elsewhere in Iraq, U-S troops captured four suspected leaders of the anti-American resistance in pre-dawn raids Thursday. (SIGNED)
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