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Bomb kills 2 at U.N. compound in Baghdad

By P. MITCHELL PROTHERO

BAGHDAD, Sept. 22 (UPI) -- A car bomb exploded Monday morning as it attempted to enter the U.N. compound in Baghdad, killing at least two people and wounding about 10, witnesses, police, and U.S. military officials said.

The driver of the vehicle and two Iraqi policemen were killed in the blast, which also wounded Iraqi police and civilians.

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The attack left some Iraqis furious at the occupational authorities for using Iraqi police at security checkpoints intended to protect coalition or international organizations. This is the second attack on the U.N. headquarters, which is located in the Canal Hotel in northeastern Baghdad. A truck bomb last killed 22 people, including the chief U.N. envoy, Sergio Vieira de Mello. Monday's attack took place about 250 meters from the headquarters just after 8 a.m.

A U.N. security official, who did not want to be identified, said the headquarters was mostly deserted. No U.N. workers were hurt.

"It (appeared) to be a suicide bombing," said Capt. Shaun Kirley, a U.S. military spokesman.

Kirley said an Iraqi policeman approached the vehicle at the entrance to a parking lot. The vehicle exploded as it was being searched.

"We think that after he (the bomber) determined that he would not be able to gain access to the compound, the bomber decided to target Iraq civilians and police," Kirley told United Press International. Initial reports indicated the explosion killed two, but some reports said others had died.

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Unconfirmed reports said the blast wounded two civilians living near the compound.

The scene of the attack was quickly secured by dozens of U.S. military vehicles filled with military police and troops from the Fourth Infantry Division, which established a security perimeter around the facility. Kirley said he expected that U.S. troops, who have a small presence at the facility, would now be asked to provide a more visible security effort.

The charred remains of the vehicle and at least one victim could be seen. Also seen were investigators from U.N. security and the FBI, which is investigating last month's bombing. Officials said all of the wounded were taken to U.S. military hospitals.

An Iraqi policeman who was on the scene expressed frustration at the security procedures that left him and his colleagues exposed to such danger. He said the Iraqi police search vehicles as they enter the compound and the U.N. security guards then search the vehicles and passengers for weapons or explosives.

"We have no training - only one week - and we don't know about bombs," he told UPI. "We have no guns, no (bulletproof) vests, no equipment. They make us stand out front so we get the bomb or the shooting, so they stay safe."

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Throughout Baghdad, Iraqi police officers can be seen at the entrance of most buildings occupied by international or coalition forces doing initial searches, while U.S. troops or armed, private security forces stay well inside the perimeters. The Iraqis rarely have more than one or two assault rifles for every 10 or so men and never have protective gear or radios.

The bombing came about 48 hours after the attempted killing of Aquila al-Hashimi, the leading candidate to represent Iraq to the United Nations, as she left her home.

Al-Hashimi, one of three women on the Iraqi Governing Council, was shot three times by unknown assailants as she was riding in a car. She is reportedly in serious but stable condition after two operations at a U.S. military hospital.

Ahmad Chalabi - the current president under the council's rotating system - blamed remnants of Saddam Hussein's regime for the assault. There have been reports of two arrests in the shooting, but no official word has been released on who was detained and what the investigation has indicated.

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