IRBIL, Iraq – A homicide bomber tried to drive a TNT-laden SUV into a U.S. intelligence compound in northern Iraq, but it blew up short of the target, killing three people and seriously wounding four American intelligence officers, officials said Wednesday.
A Kurdish security official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said Al Qaeda (search) was behind the bombing in Irbil (search) late Tuesday, less than two days before second anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks. He gave no evidence to support the claim.
In Baghdad, meanwhile, two U.S. soldiers were killed by bombs in separate incidents.
Maj. James Bullion, civil affairs executive officer of the 404th Civil Affairs Battalion, Special Operations, said two children were among the dead in Irbil, the largest Kurdish-controlled city in northern Iraq. He said one child was a 12-year-old boy. Al-Jazeera TV said the other child was 2.
The U.S. military in Baghdad said four officers of the Defense Human Intelligence Service (search) were wounded along with a Kurdish guard. The Defense Human Intelligence Service is part of the Defense Intelligence Agency, the military counterpart to the CIA (search).
In Washington, DIA spokesman Lt. Cmdr. James Brooks identified the wounded only as military intelligence officials. He would not confirm they were from his agency.
The Kurdish official said three of the wounded Americans suffered serious abdominal injuries from flying glass.
He said the bomber was trying to drive the SUV into the intelligence compound but the explosives went off prematurely.
Bullion said all four wounded Americans were seriously hurt and one of them was in critical condition when airlifted to Mosul, another northern city.
Early Thursday, attackers fired a rocket-propelled grenade at the Mosul Hotel in Mosul. U.S. civilian workers are based in the hotel. There were no immediate reports of injuries and the U.S. military in Baghdad had no information on the attack.
Bullion, speaking from his office three miles outside Irbil, said the SUV blast was felt there. He said the Americans were collecting intelligence in the region and that the explosion "would have no impact on our operations."
The blast also injured 41 Iraqis and destroyed several homes, the Kurdish official said. The wounded included children who lived nearby and Iraqi Kurdish guards.
Ansar al-Islam, a group with suspected ties to the Al Qaeda terror network, was formerly based near Sulaymaniyah, about 60 miles southeast of Irbil near the Iranian border.
Ansar headquarters was bombed by U.S. jets during the Iraq war and was captured by a U.S.-Kurdish force. Survivors were thought to have fled to Iran but are now believed to have returned.
In west Baghdad, meanwhile, a U.S. soldier from the 1st Armored Division was killed Wednesday while trying to detonate a roadside bomb, the military said.
The victim was part of an explosive ordnance detonating team that had tried to blow up the bomb by shooting it with a 50-caliber machine gun on a Bradley fighting vehicle. The bomb did not explode when fired at, but blew up as the soldier went to inspect it.
The soldier's death was the second in as many days after an eight-day stretch when no American deaths were reported.
About 5 p.m. Tuesday, one soldier was killed and one was wounded when a homemade bomb exploded on a supply route northeast of the capital, the U.S. Central Command said Wednesday. Those soldiers were from the U.S. Army's 3rd Corps Support Command, it said.
Neighbors around the Irbil bomb site said they were not aware it was used by American intelligence officers.
A witness to the attack, Jafar Marouf, was visiting a friend Tuesday night on the residential street when he saw the white SUV approach quickly and then explode with the driver inside. Marouf was slightly injured.
Dozens of what appeared to be Americans in civilian clothes and flak jackets were coming and going from the scene of the blast Wednesday. U.S. soldiers were guarding the area with Iraqi Kurds.
The Kurdish security official said U.S. intelligence officers worked in the bombed building, with some of the top officers also sleeping there. Others had quarters in two villas not far away.
"It was a blasphemy to put their base in a civilian neighborhood," said Najib Abdullah, manager of a nearby gas station. "The whole neighborhood shook. Chunks of concrete were falling from the sky."
Irbil is 200 miles north of Baghdad, the capital. Northern Iraq has been the most stable part of the country since the ouster of Saddam Hussein.