- BAGHDAD (AP)- US investigators
on Friday were questioning Iraqi employees and guards who worked at the
UN headquarters - many with ties to Saddam Hussein's security service -
on the growing suspicion that the deadly truck bombing of the UN. facility
may have been an inside job, the top US security official in Iraq said
- "There are concerns about some of the people who
were working there...It's all under investigation at this point,"
Bernard Kerik, the former New York police commissioner, said.
- Kerik, in Iraq to rebuild the police force, said some
of the Iraqi personnel at the UN compound initially refused to co-operate
with authorities and were being interrogated.
- Leaving no stone unturned
- FBI agents and Iraqi police were questioning Iraqis who
worked both inside and outside the UN building, Kerik said.
- "We want to know who was in the building, vendors,
anyone who had to make deliveries, anyone who had to be in the building
for any other reason," he said.
- The fact that the truck blew up in a small access road
outside top UN envoy Sergio Vieira de Mello's office, just as a high-level
official meeting was in progress, added to suspicions the blast was engineered
by someone with inside knowledge.
- "It is going to consist of interview, interrogations,
forensic evidence, technical evidence," Kerik said.
- Guards also under scrutiny
- UN security guards also were under scrutiny. Most of
them had been placed in jobs at the UN facility by the Saddam security
service before the war and reported on UN staff movements at the Canal
Hotel, headquarters for UN inspectors looking for weapons of mass destruction.
- Questioning the guards had become a priority because
of their ties to Saddam's intelligence apparatus, an official said on condition
of anonymity. He said investigators were checking to see if any guards
failed to report for duty on Tuesday.
- Searching for remains
- Also on Friday, US soldiers and Iraqi police were searching
for human remains in the rubble of the bombed headquarters, as 86 seriously
wounded UN workers waited to be airlifted out of Iraq for medical care
- The US military announced the deaths of two US soldiers
Friday. One serviceman was killed in action on Thursday in al Hilla, south
of Baghdad. The other died in a fire at a shooting range. The military
did not say what caused the fire.
- "Armed Vanguards of a Second Muhammad Army"
- A previously unknown group claimed responsibility for
the unprecedented suicide attack on Tuesday against the UN. The group calling
itself the "Armed Vanguards of a Second Muhammad Army" pledged
"to continue fighting every foreigner (in Iraq) and to carry out similar
operations" in a statement sent to the Dubai-based Al-Arabiya satellite
- There was no way to verify the authenticity of the claim.
Gen. John Abizaid, the head of US Central Command, said he was aware of
a group with a similar name, but did not elaborate.
- He warned that terrorism "is emerging as the number
one security threat" in Iraq.
- al-Qaeda cells in Baghdad
- The al-Qaeda-linked group Ansar al-Islam, based in northern
Iraq since before the war, has "definitely established" cells
in Baghdad and foreign fighters have been entering the country from Syria,
Abizaid told a Washington news conference.
- As the world body tried to recover its footing in Iraq
after the bombing, which killed at least 23 people, the US made a new push
for a UN resolution calling on nations to send troops to help American
forces in Iraq.
- But US secretary of state Colin Powell, who met with
UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, underlined that Washington would not surrender
any control in Iraq to the UN - a step diplomats say is necessary to build
a robust international force.
- US won't give up control
- The US military wants to broaden the coalition in part
to get more soldiers on the ground to help with security, but also to make
the American occupation more multinational. US troops have come under constant
guerrilla attack in past months and blame Saddam loyalists.
- Thursday's deaths brought the number of US combat deaths
in Iraq to 179, 32 more than in the first Gulf War. Sixty-five US soldiers
have been killed since US President George W Bush declared an end to formal
combat on May 1 this year.
- Six US soldiers were wounded on Friday when their 5-ton
truck ran over a roadside bomb on the outskirts of Baiji, about 210km north
of Baghdad, 4th Infantry Division spokesperson Major Josslyn Aberle said.
- The victims were evacuated in a helicopter to an Army
field hospital north of Tikrit, where one was in critical condition awaiting
surgery, she said. The others were in stable condition, she added.
- Fighting in Iraq continues
- US troops shot and killed one Iraqi who opened fire with
an AK-47 rifle at a patrol early n Friday, she said. It was unclear where
the shooting happened and there were no US casualties.
- The UN, despite the bombing, will not increase the number
of US soldiers standing guard outside its facilities from the dozen or
so it had before the attack, said Ramiro Lopes da Silva, Iraq coordinator
for UN humanitarian programmes.
- "It's not that we have anything against the coalition
forces, but you do realize the presence of coalition forces does intimidate
some of the people we need to speak to and work with," he told reporters
at the blast site.
- UN a soft target
- "We will always remain a soft target," he said.
"We are conscious of that, but that is the way we operate. We are
an open organisation."
- He said the UN was temporally moving about 100 support
and administrative staff - out of a total work force of 300 - to Jordan
- Two UN employees were still unaccounted for and an unknown
number of people - visitors to the building - were still buried in the
rubble, he said. The UN's official death toll stood at 20, including the
UN's chief envoy to Iraq, Sergio Vieira de Mello. However, independent
checks by The Associated Press at area hospitals showed at least 23 died
in the blast.
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