Officials Mourn Bombing Losses; Vow to Continue Operations
By K.L. Vantran
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Jan. 18, 2004 Today's bombing outside coalition headquarters in Baghdad will not deter U.S. and coalition forces from their mission in Iraq, a military spokesman said in a briefing from the Iraqi capital.
An explosives-laden truck exploded shortly after 8 a.m. during Sunday's morning rush hour near the entrance to the headquarters. At least 20 people were killed, and at least 60 more were injured. Officials believe most of the dead were Iraqi citizens, but Army Brig. Gen. Mark Kimmitt, deputy director of operations for Combined Joint Task Force 7, said two Americans may have been killed by the blast.
"We have indications that some of those that were killed were American citizens -- U.S. contractors," he said. "We believe the current number at two. We're waiting for firmer confirmation."
Kimmitt vowed that the coalition's efforts will not abate. "We will continue our operations," said the general. "We will continue the pace of our operations. We will continue to kill or capture anti-Iraqi and anti-coalition elements throughout the country as long as we are here."
In a statement released on the Coalition Provisional Authority's Web site, Ambassador L. Paul Bremer III mourned the "innocent victims" but affirmed that the plan to hand over authority to Iraqis remains on course. Bremer, the CPA administrator, called today's bombing an "outrage."
"(It's) another clear indication of the murderous and cynical intent of terrorists to undermine freedom, democracy and progress in Iraq," he said. "They will not succeed."
The ambassador said the attack, which took place at the height of rush hour in Baghdad, was "clearly timed to claim the maximum possible number of innocent victims. Once again, it is innocent Iraqis who have been murdered by these terrorists in a senseless act of violence. I share the deep outrage of my Iraqi friends and colleagues at this tragic and inexcusable loss of life. I pass my deepest condolences to the families and friends of those murdered."
Bremer said the coalition's determination to work for a stable and democratic future for this country is undiminished.
"Our plan to hand over remaining authority to a new Iraqi government in July this year remains unchanged," he added.
"The coalition is doing all it can to assist the Iraqi security and emergency services in dealing with the aftermath of this terrorist attack," he continued. "Many of the Iraqi wounded are being treated in a nearby coalition military hospital, and will be given the best care available."