Iraq truck blast ushers Rumsfeld out of town

A gas tanker truck wired with explosives blew up in a west Baghdad neighbourhood, killing one person, wounding 19 and lighting up the night sky with a fireball just hours after US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld left the Iraqi capital.

A gas tanker truck wired with explosives blew up in a west Baghdad neighbourhood, killing one person, wounding 19 and lighting up the night sky with a fireball just hours after US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld left the Iraqi capital.

There were no members of the multinational forces among the casualties, said Capt Brian Lucas, a US military spokesman in Baghdad.

The butane truck was parked near the Libyan Embassy in the Mansour district, a wealthy district where many foreigners live and embassies are located, police said. Residents said they could hear small-arms fire immediately after the blast.

Most of the wounded suffered severe burns, said a doctor at Baghdad’s Yarmouk hospital. Three nearby houses were damaged by the blast, though there were no injuries inside the embassies.

On Tuesday, insurgents in Mosul, a northern city that has become a centre for violence, carried out the deadliest yet against Americans – a suicide attack on a mess tent at a US base.

Brig Gen Richard Formica, who investigated abuse at Abu Ghraib prison, is leading a new, wide-ranging probe into security lapses that allowed the bomber to penetrate into a packed mess hall on the base, authorities said Friday.

The Mosul blast – claimed by the radical Islamic group known as the Ansar al-Sunnah Army – killed 22 people, most of them American soldiers and civilians.

In Fallujah, around 4,000 displaced citizens returned to inspect their homes yesterday, the second day that authorities have allowed some residents back into the devastated city.

Many of those who arrived were shocked and angry. Some said they would rather remain in makeshift camps outside the town than return to their bombed out homes.

Meanwhile, Tariq Aziz, a former senior aide of Saddam Hussein who has been in jail since early last year, told his lawyer that he will not testify against the former dictator, said the lawyer, Badee Izzat Aref, after meeting his client.

Aziz also denied any graft took place in the controversial UN oil-for-food program, the lawyer said.

The program allowed Iraq to sell oil to buy food and medicine for its people suffering under UN sanctions imposed in 1990. UN officials and members of Saddam’s regime have been accused of corruption over the program, which started in 1996.

Aziz is one of 11 Saddam aides who – along with Saddam – face trial for crimes under the ousted regime. Interim Iraqi Prime Minister Ayad Allawi has been pushing forward the proceedings as elections approach.

Iraq’s persistent violence has raised fears that voters will not be able to cast ballots in the election – the first nationwide vote since Saddam’s fall.

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