BAGHDAD – The Polish ambassador to Iraq was slightly wounded and two civilians, including a bodyguard, were killed in a roadside bomb attack Wednesday in downtown Baghdad, according to Polish government officials.
Gen. Edward Pietrzyk was being treated for minor burns covering 20 percent of his body and "is going to be fine," said Deputy Ambassador Waldemar Figaj, who spoke to The Associated Press from a hospital in Baghdad's Green Zone. Pietrzyk was to be flown home to Poland by way of German later in the day.
A civilian passer-by died after at least two roadside bombs were detonated around 10 a.m., an Iraqi police official said on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to release the information. A Polish security guard, Bartosz Orzechowski, 29, died at the hospital a short time later, Poland's Interior Minister Wladyslaw Stasiak said during a news conference.
At least 11 people, including three security guards with the convoy, were also wounded in the attack in the Karradah neighborhood, police said. The guards worked for Poland's Government Protection Office, which is responsible for the security of Polish officials in Iraq, said Dariusz Aleksandrowicz, the agency's spokesman.
The attack, which took place a few hundred yards from the Polish Embassy, seemed to target the ambassador. said Robert Szaniawski, a spokesman for the Polish Foreign Ministry.
"We still don't have the reasons for the attack," he said, adding that the embassy is not in the heavily fortified Green Zone.
Polish Prime Minister Jaroslaw Kaczynski said the attack would not 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 battlefield," he said. "We must fight terrorism and that entails a certain risk."
State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said the United States was shocked by the attack.
"Poland is a good friend and a good ally and we appreciate the fact — the Iraqis appreciate the fact — that they have such high-level diplomatic representation in Baghdad," McCormack said. "We are going to do what we can to help out."
Poland contributed combat troops to the 2003 U.S.-led invasion, and has since led a multinational division south of Baghdad. About 900 Polish troops are stationed there training Iraqi personnel; 21 have died in the war.
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.
"Poland has been a strong and steadfast ally here and around the world, and we commend its commitment to a stable and secure Iraq," said a brief statement issued by U.S. Ambassador Ryan Crocker and the U.S. commander, Gen. David Petraeus, condemning the attack. "We stand ready to provide any additional assistance we can."
U.S. officials said Blackwater USA, a Moyock, N.C.-based security firm, flew the ambassador to the Green Zone for treatment.
The company is under investigation for the role its personnel played in a Sept. 16 shootout that left 11 Iraqis dead in Baghdad. The incident prompted the Iraqi Interior Ministry to order the company out of the country, but Blackwater guards were back on duty less than a week later.
Blackwater has an estimated 1,000 employees in Iraq, and at least $800 million in government contracts.
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.
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. He then served as commander of Polish land forces from 2000 until 2006.