FBI Agents in Iraq Turn Focus on U.N. Bombing - KLTV.com - Tyler, Longview, Jacksonville |ETX News

8-20-03

FBI Agents in Iraq Turn Focus on U.N. Bombing

 BA G H D A D, Iraq, Aug. 20— FBI agents already in Iraq to investigate the bombing at the Jordanian Embassy will shift their focus today to the deadly attack on U.N. headquarters in Baghdad, as U.S. officials mull ways to combat new threats against peacekeeping efforts

No one has claimed responsibility for Tuesday's explosion, which killed at least 17 people, including Sergio Vieira de Mello, who headed the U.N. mission in Iraq, and wounded more than 100.

The attack came less than two weeks after a car bombing at the Jordanian Embassy in Baghdad killed 11 people. An FBI team of agents, bomb technicians and evidence response units who were already in the region to investigate the embassy attack will now turn its attention toward the U.N. attack, U.S. officials told ABCNEWS. More FBI agents are expected to join them in the coming days.

U.S. officials could face a difficult task tracking down those responsible for the attacks, said ABCNEWS military analyst Tony Cordesman, who holds the Arleigh A. Burke Chair in Strategy at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington.

The list of potential suspects, Cordesman warned, could be long and wide-ranging. They could include former servicemen in ousted dictator Saddam Hussein's security apparatus, or militants from abroad, or simply young Iraqis being paid to mount attacks.

The bombing could be the work of an unlikely alliance — made up of those who share a common hatred of the United States and its allies.

Before Tuesday's bombing, U.S. military officials had been concerned about potential attacks on "soft" targets after weeks of guerrilla-style attacks on American soldiers in Iraq.

The explosion occurred shortly after U.S. officials confirmed that Taha Yassin Ramadan, a former Iraqi vice president and No. 12 on the U.S. list of 55 most-wanted Iraqis, was captured and handed over to U.S. forces in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul.

Whoever is behind the attack wants to convince Iraqis and people outside the country that the U.S. mission in Iraq is failing, Cordesman said.

"They're trying to cause hatred and anger among the Iraqi people," he said. "They're trying to make it look like the United States has failed and cannot create a nation or a democracy. They're trying to mobilize more of the Iraqi people, including the Shiites in the south, so that there would be a broad effort at resisting the United States."

Involving More Troops and Nations?

Following the attack, President Bush vowed that the U.S. mission in Iraq would not be deterred.

"These killers will not determine the future of Iraq," Bush told reporters Tuesday at his ranch in Crawford, Texas. "Iraq is on an irreversible course toward self-government and peace. And America and our friends in the United Nations will stand with the Iraqi people."

But critics say the United States may have to reconsider its approach and consider bringing in more U.S. troops and involving more countries in its nation-building and peacekeeping mission in Iraq.

"It seems to me it's the culmination of a change that's been emerging in recent days in the security situation inside Iraq. There's been a quite clear change and an acceleration away from attacks on individuals and on soldiers towards attacks on institutions," said George Joffe, professor of Middle Eastern studies at Cambridge University in England.

"It [the United States] has resolutely refused to accept that it can't control the security situation despite the evidence over the last four months, and it will now have to reconsider whether or not it mustn't in some way find a way to bring in the United Nations as the mechanism by which security to is to be brought back to Iraq," he said.

Grief at the United Nations

U.S. military officials in Baghdad said the bomb blew up near al Kanal hotel in northeastern Baghdad around 4:30 p.m. local time on Tuesday. The hotel had been the headquarters for U.N. operations in Iraq since the 1991 Persian Gulf War, and housed the U.N. weapons inspection program and humanitarian assistance efforts.

A truck apparently approached al Kanal hotel from a parking area on the side of the building. A 12-foot-tall concrete wall had just been completed around the 600-by-900-foot hotel compound, but the site was not strictly guarded by police or military forces. It was unclear whether the truck tried to ram through the wall.

U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan cut short a vacation in Europe and was due back at U.N. headquarters in New York today. He expressed shock at the death of Vieira de Mello, a Brazilian diplomat who had headed several dangerous missions and was considered a possible future candidate to lead the world body.

"I can think of no one we could less afford to spare, or who would be more acutely missed throughout the U.N. system," Annan said.

Vieira de Mello was one of seven U.N. employees killed in Tuesday's blast. The others were indentified as Rick Hooper, an American who worked in the Department of Public Affairs; Fiona Watson, from the United Kingdom; Ranillo Buenaventura and Marilyn Manuel, both from the Philippines; Jean-Selim Kanaan, an Egyptian; and Chris Klein-Beckman, a 32-year-old Canadian who worked for the United Nations Children's Fund.

At U.N. headquarters in New York, the flags of the 191 U.N. member states were taken down, and the blue and white U.N. flag was lowered to half-staff.

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