Bombs kill 20 Iraqis, target churches

BAGHDAD (AFP) — At least 20 Iraqis were killed in rebel attacks and bombings on Sunday, including six coordinated car bombs set off near churches, while a roadside bombing wounded a US television news anchor and his cameraman.
The latest rebel attacks came as the trial of ousted president Saddam Hussein was thrown into fresh chaos, with Saddam walking out and his half-brother Barzan Tikrit being ejected from the court on the judge’s order.

Before the trial started, at least 16 Iraqis had been killed in a series of rebel attacks which were followed by the bombings by churches in Baghdad and Kirkuk.

In central Iraq, Bob Woodruff, news anchor with US television network ABC, and his cameraman Doug Vogt were seriously wounded when the vehicle they were in hit a roadside bomb near Taji, north of Baghdad.

The two were embedded with the US army’s 4th Infantry Division but were travelling in an Iraqi vehicle.

“The incident occurred near Taji and the two are now in hospital,” a US military spokesman told AFP.

A statement from the ABC News president, David Westin, said the two were in serious condition and being treated at a US military hospital.

“It was a mechanised vehicle. At least it wasn’t one of the pick-up trucks they usually drive around in. They were in the lead vehicle and they were up in the hatch, so they were exposed,” ABC White House correspondent Martha Raddatz told ABC’s “This Week” Sunday morning programme.

Raddatz, who said she had been briefed by the US military, said that both were wearing body armour, helmets and eye protection when the improvised explosive device (IED) went off.

“They were both immediately injured, taken away. They are shrapnel wounds. Both have them to the head,” Raddatz said.

Woodruff was earlier this month named co-anchor of ABC’s World News Tonight programme, considered one of the premiere jobs in US journalism, and had been on assignment for the network at the time of the incident.

The two were in Iran earlier this month. They began their current assignment in the region on January 24 by covering the Palestinian elections and had travelled to Baghdad on January 28, ABC said.

Woodruff had previously reported on unrest in Iraq from Baghdad, Najaf, Nassariya and Basra, and was embedded with the US Marines during the March 2003 invasion.

In Tikrit early on Sunday, Mahamud Daham Bidewi, an assistant to the city’s chief of staff during Saddam’s regime, was killed when rebels fired a rocket at his home.

In another attack gunmen killed a police captain in the northern oil refinery town of Baiji, police said.

Ten Iraqis were killed and two wounded by a roadside bomb in Eskandiriyah town, 65 kilometres south of Baghdad, a police officer from Hilla said.

A suicide car bomber blew himself up by an Iraqi army patrol, killing four Iraqi soldiers, near Saddam’s native village of Ojah, located 180 kilometres north of Baghdad. Six other soldiers were wounded, said Khaled Jabouri, a police officer from Tikrit city.

Later, six co-ordinated car bombs and a roadside bomb went off near churches across the Iraqi capital and in Kirkuk, police and interior ministry officials said.

Three people died and 11 were wounded in the two Kirkuk car bombs, police said.

Six more were wounded by the Baghdad car bombs, four of which went off near four churches in Baghdad’s Karada area. A roadside bomb also went off close to a church in central Baghdad, but there were no casualties.

Terming the bombings outside the churches as “a reprehensible act that can only exacerbate sectarian violence,” UN’s Iraq representative Ashraf Qazi called upon Iraqi authorities to preserve the safety of all worshippers and the sanctity of places of worship.

In another incident, gunmen shot dead a former senior army officer of Saddam’s regime, east of Mosul.

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