Truck bomb rocks U.N. headquarters in Baghdad - KLTV.com - Tyler, Longview, Jacksonville |ETX News

8-19-03

Truck bomb rocks U.N. headquarters in Baghdad

BAGHDAD, Iraq -- A large truck bomb ripped through the U.N. headquarters in Iraq on Tuesday killing one person and injuring 32, including the organization's special representative to the country, U.N. officials said.

Sergio Vieira de Mello was reportedly trapped in the rubble of the Canal Hotel, which partially collapsed in the explosion.

"He has been injured, but we're not certain how badly. He appears to be conscious; they are giving him water," U.N. spokesman Fred Eckhard said in New York. "Dozens appear to be injured."

The blast caused one side of the building to collapse and damaged other nearby structures.

It continues a recent pattern of attacks on non-military targets in Iraq. Over the weekend, oil, water and electricity lines were attacked by what coalition spokesman called saboteurs. And earlier this month, a car bomb exploded outside the Jordanian Embassy in Baghdad, leaving 10 people dead.

CNN Correspondent Jane Arraf said security at the hotel had been beefed up considerably but it was still, as a U.N. facility, a softer target than a U.S. military installation.

The building was evacuated and a CNN cameraman said flames and smoke were rising as medical helicopters hovered overhead. Windows reportedly were shattered as far as a kilometer away.

Nearly two hours after the blast, the blue U.N. flag still billowed over the severely damaged building, and the fire had been extinguished. Dozens of U.S. Humvee vehicles were at the scene bringing U.S. military forces to secure the area.

The United Nations has long performed many roles in the Iraq along with weapons inspection -- such as humanitarian, development and refugee programs.

De Mello, 55, became the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (UNHCR) in September 2002.

He has spent more than 30 years with that organization and held various posts during his tenure. Previous positions include serving as the United Nations' transitional administrator in East Timor and special representative of Secretary-General Kofi Annan in Kosovo.

According to the U.N. Web site, de Mello has extensive headquarters and field experience in humanitarian and peacekeeping operations having served in Bangladesh, Sudan, Cyprus, Mozambique, Peru and Lebanon.

After U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan appointed de Mello as his special representative in Iraq, he vowed to "help the people of Iraq out of what has been a terrible period in their long and noble history."

Jose Diaz, at the UNHCR headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland, told CNN: "We are deeply shocked and outraged by the dispicable act. Our people are in Iraq solely to help people who had been suffering from years of repression and now recovering from war.

"It will make out work in Iraq a lot harder, but we will persevere....The people of Iraq deserve that, and we will not be deterred by terroristic acts."

Other developments

• Former Iraqi vice president Taha Yasin Ramadan is in U.S. custody, Kurdish and U.S. officials told CNN Tuesday. Ramadan was the senior of two vice presidents in Saddam Hussein's regime and had been with Saddam since the start of his rise to power. He was number 20 on the coalition's most wanted list and the 10 of diamonds in the playing card deck of suspects.

• In Tikrit, six Iraqis were killed and several wounded in an explosion at an ammunitions dump, U.S. military officials said. Authorities speculated that the casualties were looters -- poor Iraqis trying to make money by stripping metals from the munitions to sell as scrap.

• In an interview with CNN Monday, U.S. civilian administrator L. Paul Bremer said soldiers are "not sparing any effort to find (Saddam) and root him out, and it will happen one day. We'll wake up and it will have happened."

• The U.N. refugee agency said another repatriation convoy carrying Iraqi refugees is leaving a camp in Saudi Arabia on Tuesday and should arrive in Iraq on Wednesday. There will be 300 refugees in the convoy.

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