June 25, 2008

Four Americans Killed in Sadr City Office Bombing


By Hannah Allam

McClatchy News Service


A bomb hidden in a meeting room killed two U.S. soldiers and two American government employees Tuesday at a local council office in the Baghdad district of Sadr City, according to the U.S. military.

U.S. authorities said an Italian working for the Defense Department also was killed in the blast. Iraqi authorities said six Iraqis also died, bringing the total death toll to at least 11. An American soldier and 10 Iraqis were wounded, including three Iraqi council members.

The blast ripped through the municipal building just before elections for chairman of a district advisory council in Sadr City, the densely populated Shiite Muslim slum that supporters of the militant cleric Muqtada al-Sadr mostly control.

Lt. Col. Steven Stover, a spokesman for the U.S. military in Baghdad, said the bomb appeared to target the main candidate for the post and Americans visiting for a regular meeting.

Stover said U.S. troops detained three suspects who tested positive for explosives residue.

Iraqi officials said it appeared to be an inside job, and suspicion fell on the headquarters' Shiite guard force.

The U.S. Embassy in Baghdad announced that the government employees killed in the blast were civilians with the State and Defense departments. The State Department employee was identified as Steven L. Farley of Guthrie, Okla.

Farley was a member of the U.S.-embedded Provincial Reconstruction Team for the Sadr City and Adhamiyah districts, U.S. Ambassador Ryan Crocker said. Such reconstruction teams work alongside Iraqi officials to restore services and security in volatile areas of Iraq.

Council spokesman Ahmed Hassan said the blast took place as the Americans entered the room and started talking with the deputy council chief. The council chief, Hassan Hussein Shammah, was wounded in the leg.

The spokesman said the hall was filled with smoke, dust and shattered glass.

"I was about to enter the room when strong hot wind and dust knocked me backward into a different room," Hassan said. "I heard the scream of the wounded people asking for help. We rushed inside the blast site and took the wounded to the hospital in our private cars."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Originally published by BY HANNAH ALLAM.

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