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Two Killed in Baghdad Explosion

Two Killed in Baghdad Explosion

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BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) -- A roadside bomb destroyed a civilian car with armor plating Monday near an entrance to the headquarters of the U.S.-led coalition, killing two Britons and injuring two other people.

In the hours after the car blast, insurgents fired a series of mortar rounds in separate attacks around Baghdad. One projectile landed in the Green Zone, which houses the coalition headquarters, the coalition press office said. There were no reports of casualties or damage.

Witnesses said a mortar shell landed in the city's Karrada district, and another slightly damaged the roof of a school in Salihiya district. There were no reports of casualties.

In the car explosion, American soldiers tried to pull the men from the shattered vehicle and quickly sealed off the area, said witness Kamel Raji. The blast occurred near one of the main entrances to the Green Zone.

In London, the Foreign Office said two British citizens were killed and another Briton was injured. It said 12 British civilians have died in Iraq since July last year.

Brig. Gen. Mark Kimmitt, the chief U.S. military spokesman in Baghdad, said the blast was caused by a roadside bomb that exploded about 150 yards from a checkpoint outside the Green Zone, and that two people were killed and two injured. Earlier, a military official had said four people were killed.

Kimmitt also said more than 400 prisoners will be released Friday from Abu Ghraib, the Baghdad jail at the center of an international scandal over prisoner abuse by U.S. soldiers. The military periodically releases detainees the prison; last Friday, 454 were freed.

A witness to the car blast, noncommissioned police officer Mohammed Naem said the vehicle was a bulletproof Toyota Land Cruiser en route to the convention center in the Green Zone.

Taxi driver Mohammed Saleh said he was about 20 yards away and heard shooting after the explosion.

"I saw the roof of the car flying," he said.

Ali Salman, who works at a nearby restaurant, said the car was in a convoy, and two men in an accompanying car started "haphazardly shooting."

"The passengers got out and started shooting and then raced off," said Salman, who sought shelter behind a pillar.

It was the latest in a series of deadly assaults in the Iraqi capital.

On Saturday, a suicide car bomber killed four people and slightly wounded a deputy interior minister. On May 17, the president of the Iraqi Governing Council, Izzadine Saleem, was killed along with at least six other people near the coalition headquarters.

Elsewhere, clashes between U.S. forces and fighters loyal to rebel cleric Muqtada al-Sadr overnight in the holy city of Najaf left at least one person dead and 20 injured, a hospital official said.

The toll was likely to rise because ambulances had been dispatched to recover more casualties, according to the official, Fadhil Abbas. He also said the hospital was waiting for relatives of four people killed in clashes the previous night to identify the bodies.

There were no reports of U.S. casualties in the fighting in Najaf, south of Baghdad.

Some of the overnight combat occurred in the Revolution of 1920 Square and was so intense the steel fence between the square and an adjacent cemetery was destroyed. Three mortar rounds landed about 300 yards from the Imam Ali shrine, one of Islam's holiest sites. Witnesses said there were no casualties.

On Sunday, U.S. and Iraqi security forces raided a mosque in neighboring Kufa, where they said insurgents stored weapons. The military said at least 32 al-Sadr fighters were killed in the first American incursion into Kufa.

In another holy city, Karbala, militia fighters appeared to have abandoned their positions after weeks of combat.

Al-Sadr launched an uprising early last month. Sought for the killing of a moderate rival cleric in 2003, al-Sadr has taken refuge in Najaf and routinely delivers a Friday sermon in Kufa.

According to a compilation by The Associated Press, based on official statements and witness accounts, at least three coalition troops have been killed this month by troops loyal to al-Sadr, while about 315 Iraqi insurgents have been killed.

A U.S. Marine was killed and several other troops were injured when a bomb hidden in a parked car exploded as two American convoys passed Sunday near Fallujah, west of Baghdad. After heavy fighting last month, Marines withdrew from Fallujah and announced that an Iraqi force led by former officers in Saddam Hussein's army would patrol the Sunni-dominated city.

U.S. troops also battled militiamen in a Shiite district of Baghdad on Sunday. Nine U.S. soldiers were wounded around the city, the military said, including four in a mortar attack in the east of the capital.

(Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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