Iraq hit by series of car bombings

Sunday, January 18, 2004

BAGHDAD In what appears to mark a new offensive, Sunni insurgents have launched a series of lethal car bombings in the Iraqi capital.

At least 20 people were killed on Sunday in two suicide car bombings in Iraq. Both attacks were said to have been conducted by Sunni insurgents.

In the main attack, a suspicious vehicle tried to enter the main gate of the Coalition Provisional Authority in Baghdad. The Land Cruiser was stopped at the gate and the driver detonated a huge bomb in his vehicle.

At least 18 people were killed in the morning attack. U.S. officials said they included 16 Iraqis and two Americans all of them civilians. Another 30 people were injured.

"It was literally at the last point a vehicle could get to without being stopped," Brig. Gen. Mark Hertling, deputy commander of the 1st Armored Division, said. "The barriers absorbed most of the blast."

In Tikrit, a suicide bomber blew up his car near a U.S. Army patrol. Two people in the vehicle were killed, but there were no American casualties.

The car bombings appeared to have marked a new offensive by Sunni insurgents and their Al Qaida allies, U.S. officials said. They said insurgents have become more skilled in the use of anti-aircraft missiles to down U.S. Army helicopters.

The insurgents have deployed the Soviet-origin SA-7, SA-14 and SA-16 models as well as rocket-propelled grenades to down utility as well as attack helicopters in the Sunni Triangle, officials said. So far this month, three U.S. helicopters have been shot down.

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