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Mortar Attack Wounds Three in Baghdad

Mortar Attack Wounds Three in Baghdad

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BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) -- Insurgents struck Tuesday at the center of the U.S.-led occupation, firing mortars after sundown at the heavily guarded district that includes major American facilities. Three people were wounded, the Pentagon said.

Spain, a close U.S. ally, withdrew many of its diplomats because of escalating violence.

Huge explosions thundered throughout central Baghdad about 7:45 p.m. as the insurgents targeted the 2-square-mile "Green Zone," which includes coalition headquarters, the military press center and other key facilities.

Iraqi police said two mortars fell in the zone, but U.S. officials said the headquarters itself, located in one of Saddam Hussein's former palaces, was not damaged.

However, the huge detonation sent coalition staffers running into the hallways. It was the second mortar attack against the Green Zone in as many days.

At the Pentagon, spokesman Lt. Col. Jim Cassella said three people were wounded in the attacks but it was unclear if they were military or civilians.

Cassella said there appeared to have been three explosions, possibly from mortars or rockets.

The attack underscored the precarious security situation in the city. Late Monday, three mortars exploded in the center of Baghdad. U.S. officials said one struck a camp of the 2nd Armored Cavalry Regiment, which provides security in the palace district. Officials said there was no damage nor casualties.

The deteriorating security situation has prompted the United Nations, the international Red Cross and other international organizations to reduce their foreign staffs.

On Tuesday, Foreign Minister Ana Palacio said Spain will withdraw 25 of the 29-member Spanish diplomatic staff from Baghdad. Most will be relocated to Amman, Jordan. Spain has about 1,300 soldiers in Iraq and was one of the strongest supporters of the U.S.-led invasion.

"We have taken staff out of Baghdad temporarily given that it is a very complicated moment," Palacio said in Berlin. Spaniards working for the U.S.-led Coalition Provisional Authority will stay, the Spanish Defense Ministry said without giving their number.

Spain became the third coalition member to withdraw diplomats from Iraq because of stepped-up insurgent attacks. Last month, Bulgaria and the Netherlands moved their diplomats to Jordan, also citing worsening security.

Those fears increased after a dramatic escalation in attacks, starting with the Oct. 26 missile barrage against the Al-Rasheed Hotel, where many coalition and U.S. military officials lived. One U.S. colonel was killed and 18 people were wounded.

On Sunday, guerrillas near Fallujah shot down a U.S. Army Chinook helicopter, killing 15 soldiers in the bloodiest single strike against American forces since the war began March 20.

Violence persisted Tuesday when a roadside bomb killed a 1st Armored Division soldier and wounded two others in Baghdad.

In the northern city of Mosul, insurgents using small arms fire and rocket-propelled grenades attacked a hotel housing American troops but caused no casualties, the military said.

Three grenades hit the building and two others landed in the compound as U.S. forces returned fire. A police station in Mosul was also struck overnight by a rocket-propelled grenade, the military said Tuesday. There were no casualties.

Also in Mosul -- Iraq's third-largest city, which had been relatively quiet -- gunmen killed a judge near his home. Ismail Youssef, a Christian, was the second Iraqi judge assassinated in as many days.

On Monday, Judge Muhan Jabr al-Shuweily, head of an Iraqi court investigating members of Saddam's Baath Party, was abducted and murdered in the southern city of Najaf. A colleague who was kidnapped with him but spared said the killers appeared to be Saddam supporters.

Elsewhere, insurgents Tuesday ambushed a U.S. patrol with rocket-propelled grenades in Khaldiyah, a town west of Baghdad in the volatile "Sunni Triangle," witnesses said. There were no reports of casualties and no confirmation from the U.S. command.

The Arabic language satellite television station Al-Jazeera reported an ambush Tuesday near Samara north of the capital and broadcast pictures of cheering Iraqis displaying American ammunition as a truck burned in the background.

U.S. troops, meanwhile, raided the village of Karasia near Tikrit late Monday, arresting two suspects and seizing Kalashnikov rifles, 14 mortar rounds, a mortar tube, and rocket-propelled grenades and launchers, the military said.

In Mosul, gunmen killed a provincial judge Tuesday near his home. Ismail Youssef, a Christian, was a deputy to the head of the appeal courts in Nineveh province. On Monday, the head of an Iraqi court who was investigating members of Saddam Hussein's Baath Party, Muhan Jabr al-Shuweily, was abducted and murdered in the southern city Najaf.

A colleague who was spared said he believed the killers were supporters of Saddam.

The Spanish withdrawal followed the slaying of a Spanish navy captain in the truck bombing of the U.N. headquarters in Baghdad on Aug. 19, and the Oct. 9 killing of a Spanish sergeant working for military intelligence. Security at the Spanish Embassy had been stepped up in recent weeks.

(Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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