Either a faulty detonator, or perhaps intervention by fate, sent a vanload of terrorists to the promised land before they reached their target. Hope they enjoy the 72 Virginians waiting for them!
September 11, 2003
New York Times
Bomb in Kurds’ Area, Aimed at Americans, Kills Iraqi
By JOHN TIERNEY
ERBIL, Iraq, Sept. 10 — A suicide bomber killed a young boy and wounded 50 people, most of them Iraqis, when his minivan filled with explosives detonated on Tuesday night as he sped toward a house used by American officials, officials here said.
The attack was the first on the American occupiers here in the capital of the Kurdish-controlled region, which has been the the most peaceful and pro-American part of Iraq.
“It’s the first attack of any kind we’ve had in this region,” said the local military commander, Lt. Col. Harry Schute. “I guess it sends the same message as 9/11, that terrorists can hit home anywhere. But we will continue with our mission.”
The explosion was the fifth in what have become weekly car bombings in Iraq that officials say may be the work of foreign terrorists, remnants of the Saddam Hussein government, or possibly a combined effort.
Like some of the previous attacks — at the United Nations office in Baghdad, a Shiite shrine in Najaf and the police headquarters in Baghdad — this one seemed intended to shock the public by hitting a target previously considered safe.
The attack occurred in a quiet, affluent neighborhood shortly before 10 p.m. Witnesses said the driver accelerated the van toward a house that neighbors described as the home and office of American intelligence agents. The leader of the American military here acknowledged that it was a “United States government facility,” but declined to elaborate.
Goran Jabar and his brother, Delzar, said they were were sitting outside their home chatting with three other young men when they noticed the minivan approaching at an unusually high speed. The minivan drove up on to a large gravel common area in the midst of the houses, kicking up gravel as it accelerated straight toward the gate of the American house, they said.
“The driver was a man in his 20’s, with black hair and a black mustache, wearing a white shirt,” Goran Jabar said. “He wasn’t a Kurd. He looked like an Arab. He was driving right at the house, but the bomb went off before he reached it.”
The apparently premature explosion left an eight-foot-deep crater about 20 yards away from the American house, whose windows and facade were damaged.
The bomb caused more damage to nearby houses, collapsing the roofs and facades of some homes, knocking off doors and window frames and severely cutting people with shards of glass from the shattered windows.
Neighbors said a 4-year-old boy from Baghdad visiting his grandmother was killed by collapsing debris in the house next door to the one used by the Americans.
Another boy, Hunar Najmadin, 14, who was washing his bicycle in a nearby front yard, was thrown 30 feet in the air and ended up losing an eye, said his brother, Hiwa.
In all, 42 civilians were wounded, said Colonel Schute, of the 404th Civil Affairs Battalion of the 101st Airborne. The bomb also injured six Americans and two members of the Kurdish militia who were guarding the American facility, he said.
People in the neighborhood blamed outsiders, with many suggesting that the attack was the work of Ansar al-Islam, a militant Islamic group that has been operating in northern Iraq near the Iranian border. American and Kurdish officials say hundreds of its members have entered Iraq
“It looks like the work of Ansar al-Islam,” said Mahmoud Othman, a Kurdish leader serving on the Iraqi Governing Council, the interim national government.
“The Americans thought they would be safe in Kurdistan, and now the message is that they’re not safe,” he said. “I don’t think it will change the positive attitude Kurds have toward the Americans, but it will make it more difficult for Americans to operate here. There will have to be more security.”
Thanks to protection from American forces, Kurds have enjoyed more than a decade of autonomy in northern Iraq. Members of the Kurdish majority in the area have their own parliament, which meets here in Erbil, a city of more than a million people, 220 miles north of Baghdad.
The explosion left some neighbors resentful at the American presence.
“Why was this C.I.A. house in a family neighborhood?” asked Lana Dizayai, whose windows were shattered by the explosion, more than 70 yards away. “I am very angry to think of all the children injured. Tell the Americans to take the oil and leave us in peace.”
Others, though, said the attack would not change their feelings toward the United States. “We won’t stop liking the Americans,” said Zyad Umar, who was wounded by flying glass. “This was the work Ansar or Al Qaeda.”