In Iraq, at least 75 people have been killed and dozens wounded in
a car bombing in the city of Najaf. A senior Shiite cleric, Grand
Ayatollah Mohamed Baqer al-Hakim, has died in the attack.
Eyewitnesses say the car bomb exploded after Friday prayers outside
the tomb of Ali, in Najaf, one of Shiite Islam's holiest sites.
The bombing follows an attack last Sunday against a relative of Ayatollah
al-Hakim, in which three of his guards were killed. Rival groups
within the Shiite leadership are being blamed for the violence. The
cleric, who was persecuted under the regime of Saddam Hussein, had
also been criticized by some for allowing followers to work with
the U.S.-led coalition authority.
The head of the authority, Paul Bremer, issued a statement denouncing
the bombing as the evil face of terrorism, and pledging full cooperation
with the Iraqi police in the investigation. He also expressed sympathy
to the families of the victims.
U.S. military officials say an American soldier was killed Friday
by rocket propelled grenades in an attack near the town of Baquba,
65 kilometers north of Baghdad. In addition, two U.S. soldiers
were wounded in Fallujah, 50 kilometers west of the capital, when
their convoy was hit by a rocket propelled grenade.
Meanwhile, coalition forces announced the seizure of surface-to-air
missiles, mortar rounds and grenades in several raids in central
Iraq. Twenty-four people were arrested during this operation.
Coalition leaders say they are working to bolster security in
Iraq following terrorist attacks on U.N. headquarters and the Jordanian
embassy in Baghdad and amid continuing attacks on coalition forces
in which more than 60 soldiers have died since the end of major
combat was declared in May.
The attacks, combined with a resurgence of violent crime in Baghdad,
have led some humanitarian agencies to withdraw foreign staff members
at least temporarily.
The spokeswoman for the United Nations Humanitarian Coordinator,
Veronique Taveaux, says she understands the reaction of some non-governmental
organizations, or NGO's, because the nature of their work puts
them at risk.
"As humanitarian workers, we have to go on [into] the field,
we have to go outside," she said. "We cannot stay inside the houses,
or premises, or compounds that we have. So if we cannot do that
for security reasons, and obviously at the moment we can't do that,
I can absolutely understand why some NGO's are pulling out."
Ms. Taveaux says the aid agencies are not just concerned about
possible terrorist attacks, but also about ordinary crime, such
as robbery, rape and murder, all of which she says appear also
to be on the rise.