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Bomber near U.N. mission left little to chance

BAGHDAD, IRAQ — BAGHDAD, Iraq - The bomber seemed ready to die in several ways yesterday: In the trunk of his car was one bomb. Around his waist, was a belt of explosives.

In all, one Iraqi investigator said, the man was wired to 50 or more pounds of pure explosive - no match for the unarmed Iraqi police officer getting ready to search his car.

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Around 8 a.m. local time, the bomber detonated himself - in a powerful blast that killed him and the police officer - in the parking lot of the compound of the United Nations. Yesterday's bombing came a month after a first suicide bomber killed 23 people, including Sergio Vieira de Mello, the chief envoy of the United Nations to Iraq.

Nineteen people, most of them Iraqi police officers, were injured yesterday, the United Nations said, in an explosion that rattled around the capital.

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While there is no evidence yesterday's bomber actually tried, officials here say it seems likely he had planned to slip into the heavily fortified compound to deliver the message that the United Nations remains a target in the continuing war here.

"That makes sense, given the circumstances," said Lt. Col. George Krivo, an American military spokesman, who called yesterday's attack "heinous" and "an act of pure brutality with no possible aim except to cause destruction and death."

In the last week, there has been no break from attacks on American forces here or on the Iraqi politicians and police who have taken the place of Saddam Hussein's government in the five months since American-led forces toppled the Iraqi leader. In the northern city of Mosul yesterday, attackers reportedly fired rocket propelled grenades into a police station, injuring several people. On Sunday night in the southern city of Basra, six policemen were reported injured when their station was attacked by men shooting AK-47 rifles.

In the bombing at the U.N. compound yesterday, Krivo said there was no firm evidence who was behind it.

But he suggested that as American forces crack down on militants, the military may be beginning to encounter "the worst of the worst."

"Maybe that's where we're headed here," Krivo said. "We're getting down to the most hardened, most difficult former regime loyalists and others who will stop at nothing to try to prevent the progress that is being made in the vast majority of the country."

As a result of the bombing on yesterday, Antonia Paradela, an agency spokeswoman, said the United Nations would again review its operations in Iraq, as it did with the last bombing, which resulted in most of the foreign staff being sent from Iraq. While there are still some 5,000 U.N. employees here - most of them working for the World Food Program - only several hundred are from outside Iraq.

Paradela said it was "too early" to tell whether this explosion would delay return of U.N. workers or put off a larger build-up of people to help reconstruct Iraq. But she said that the improved security since the first bombing - rows of barbed wire and big barriers of dirt and concrete that have gone up at the U.N. compound and others like it around the capital - appeared to be working.

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"It's outrageous that an Iraqi policeman died and many were injured," she said. "But it's true, security has improved massively."

Yesterday morning, about 10 Iraqi policemen - in a lightly trained and unarmed unit that protects public buildings here - were searching cars entering a parking lot used mostly by Iraqis who work at the compound or visit it for business.

One of the officers said there was a line of three cars waiting, including an old white Mercedes. Another officer, Mahmoud Mousa, 30, said a co-worker, who he knew only as Ahmed, asked, "Should I check this one?"

Ahmed asked the Mercedes driver to open the hood and the trunk and step out of the car. As the driver reached down, the first guard, said, there was an enormous explosion and Ahmed was torn to pieces.

"This is my friend's flesh and his blood," Mousa said, holding up his red-spattered and shredded uniform shirt, as he lay wounded at Al Kindi hospital.


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