BAGHDAD, Iraq – A suicide attacker exploded a car bomb Thursday west of Baghdad (search), killing at least one U.S. soldier and two Iraqi policemen and wounding 60 people, Iraqi and coalition officials said. The attack came after the United States struck a suspected militant safehouse in the troubled city of Fallujah (search), killing at least four Iraqis.
Three U.S. soldiers were among the wounded in the car bombing, which targeted a compound that houses the mayor's office, a police swas hit, he said.
Smoke and fire could be seen rising from the scene as U.S. forces sealed off the area. The wounded Americans were evacuated, said Maj. Philip Smith, spokesman for the U.S. 1st Cavalry Division.
At least two Iraqis were killed and 60 wounded, said Dr. Abbas al-Timimi of Abu Ghraib hospital. Four American soldiers were wounded and were evacuated, said Maj. Philip Smith, spokesman for the U.S. 1st Cavalry Division.
Elsewhere on the outskirts of Baghdad, insurgents fired a rocket Thursday at a logistical support area for coalition forces, killing one soldier and wounding seven, the military said in a statement. No further information was disclosed — including whether it was a U.S. soldier or not.
The Fallujah strike Thursday was only the latest to target the city, which has been a "no-go" area for U.S. troops. American ground forces have not entered Fallujah since ending a three-week siege of the city in April that left hundreds dead.
The military said in a statement that intelligence reports indicated the house targeted Thursday was being used by followers of Jordanian terror mastermind Abu Musab al-Zarqawi to plan attacks against U.S.-led forces and Iraqi citizens.
"Significant secondary explosions were observed during the impact indicating a large cache of illegal ordinance was stored in the safe house," the statement said. Explosions continued in the northeastern side of the city for hours.
At least four Iraqis were killed — including two women and one child — and eight wounded, said Dr. Ahmed Khalil of the Fallujah General Hospital. Witnesses said two houses were flattened and four others damaged in the strike.
American jets, tanks and artillery units have repeatedly targeted al-Zarqawi's network in Fallujah in recent weeks as U.S.-led forces seek to assert control over insurgent enclaves ahead of elections slated for January. The military says the attacks have inflicted significant damage on the network, which has claimed responsibility for a series of bombings, kidnappings and other attacks.
Doctors say scores of civilians have been killed and wounded in the strikes.
Zarqawi's group, Tawhid and Jihad, has claimed responsibility for several beheadings and kidnappings. On Wednesday, video surfaced of British hostage Kenneth Bigley, believed held by Zarqawi's group, pleading for help between the bars of a makeshift cage.
The new footage, first broadcast on the Arab news network Al-Jazeera and then posted on the Internet, showed Bigley begging British Prime Minister Tony Blair to meet his captors' demands.
"Tony Blair, I am begging you for my life," the 62-year-old Bigley said between sobs. "Have some compassion. Only you can help me now."
He accused Blair of lying about efforts to secure his release, saying no negotiations were taking place.
"My life is cheap. He doesn't care about me. I am just one person," the civil engineer said. "I want to go home. Please, Mr. Blair, don't leave me here."
Britain's foreign secretary, Jack Straw, said Thursday that Britain won't pay a ransom or meet any political demands to secure Bigley's release. His captors have demanded all female prisoners in Iraq be freed, but the United States says only two are in custody and there are no plans to free them.
"Of course it's very difficult for the Bigley family," Straw told British Broadcasting Corp. TV, speaking of the government's refusal to negotiate with the hostage-takers.
But he added: "If we did not have this position there would be many, many more people who would be kidnapped, and the world would be less safe."
The tape was the second in a week to surface showing Bigley appealing for help. Tawhid and Jihad beheaded two American hostages seized with Bigley and warned he will be the next to die unless its demands are met.
Gruesome videotapes of the killings were posted on the Internet, and the men's decapitated bodies were found in Baghdad — not far from the upscale neighborhood where they were seized from their house Sept. 16.
Asked to respond to Bigley's plea, Blair said Wednesday evening, "I feel absolutely sick about what has happened and I feel desperately sorry not just for Ken Bigley, obviously, but for the whole of his family."
He said the government was doing everything it could to help Bigley and would respond if his captors initiated contact, but had no way to reach them.
Bigley's brother, Paul, told the British Broadcasting Corp. that the images of his brother chained and caged were "absolutely appalling, there's no other word for it, heart wrenching." But he said he was pleased to see his brother alive.
"That's the good news I see through the smoke," he said. "This is a last ditch attempt, something has to be done and something has to be done very quickly."
More than 140 foreigners have been kidnapped in Iraq and at least 26 have been killed. Some, like Bigley, were seized by insurgents as leverage in their campaign against the United States and its allies. But others were taken by criminals seeking ransom.