news services
updated 11/3/2004 10:37:11 AM ET 2004-11-03T15:37:11

A suspected suicide bomber blew up his vehicle on the main road to Baghdad airport on Wednesday, killing an Iraqi security man and wounding at least seven civilians, witnesses and hospital officials said.

In separate attacks, a roadside bomb killed an American soldier, the U.S. military said, and a senior Oil Ministry official was killed by gunmen on his way to work, according to a ministry spokesman.

Also Wednesday, Hungary’s new prime minister said his country will withdraw its 300 non-combat troops from Iraq by March 31, because staying longer would be an "impossibility."

Explosion near airport checkpoint
The U.S. military said there were no American casualties in the attack on the approach to a U.S. checkpoint that controls access to the international airport in southwest Baghdad.

“A vehicle-borne improvised explosive device exploded in western Baghdad near an airport checkpoint at about 8:30 a.m. (9:30 p.m. ET Tuesday),” a U.S. military statement said. “No multi-national force soldiers were injured in the attack.”

Reuters photographs showed soldiers loading a corpse in a black bag into a U.S. military ambulance. A U.S. spokesman at the airport later said it was the body of an Iraqi security man.

American soldiers were also photographed collecting body parts from the debris-strewn scene in pink plastic bags.

The explosion reduced the four-wheel-drive vehicle apparently used by the suicide bomber to a charred heap of twisted metal. A car immediately behind was also completely burned out and a third one badly damaged in the blast.

Iraqi al-Sharqiya television quoted one of the wounded at Yarmouk hospital, Heba Hamid, as saying U.S. and Iraqi soldiers had stopped a four-wheel-drive car whose driver rammed into the checkpoint and blew it up, damaging three cars. 

Attacks kill U.S. troop, oil official
Just south of the capital, a roadside bomb exploded as a U.S. patrol passed the device in Salman Pak. One soldier was killed and another was wounded, the military said in a statement.

The death brings to 859 the number of U.S. soldiers killed in combat in Iraq. Almost 1,120 have died in action or from accidents or other causes since the start of last year's U.S.-led invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein.

Meanwhile, the assassination of Hussein Ali al-Fattal, director general of Iraq's oil byproducts distribution company, was shot to death by unknown assailants after leaving his house in the Yarmouk district of western Baghdad, said spokesman Assim Jihad.

“He did not care about the threats that many of the ministry officials received. They are trying to undermine this vital sector in the country,” Jihad said. “He is a great loss to the oil sector.”

The incidents came a day after car bombs killed at least a dozen people in Baghdad and another major city Tuesday as pressure mounted on interim Prime Minister Ayad Allawi to avert a full-scale U.S. attack on the insurgent stronghold Fallujah.

Hungary announces troop withdrawal
Meanwhile, Hungary announced its decision to withdraw its troops from Iraq by the end of March 2005.

"We are obliged to stay there until the (Iraqi) elections. To stay longer is an impossibility," Prime Minister Ferenc Gyurcsany said at a ceremony to mark the end of mandatory military service in Hungary on Wednesday.

The former communist country, which joined the European Union in May, sent the troops as part of the U.S.-led coalition, but the government has been under mounting pressure from citizens and opposition parties who oppose the soldiers' presence.

The Iraqi elections are due to be held by Jan. 31.

The interim Iraqi government recently asked Hungary to maintain its troop presence for about another year.

In a letter sent to Hungary about three weeks ago, Iraq thanked the country for its contributions so far and asked that the troops' mission be extended by about a year "to help Iraq's stabilization process," government spokeswoman Boglar Laszlo told The Associated Press.

Hungary has a transportation contingent of 300 troops in Iraq stationed in Hillah, south of Baghdad. Parliament last year authorized the mission until Dec. 31.

One Hungarian soldier has died in Iraq, killed when a roadside bomb exploded by the water-carrying convoy he was guarding.

Gyurcsany, who was elected in September, said last month he did not believe in pre-emptive war.

Defense Minister Ferenc Juhasz had said the government would await the outcome of the U.S. presidential election before making a decision about Iraq.

Other developments:

  • U.S. warplanes bombed targets in Fallujah overnight, destroying an arms cache and an insurgent command post, the military said on Wednesday. U.S. forces have pounded insurgent positions around Fallujah almost daily as they prepare for a major offensive against the city and other Sunni militant strongholds north and west of Baghdad in hopes of curbing the insurgency ahead of January elections.
  • The Care International charity that employs kidnapped British-Iraqi aid worker Margaret Hassan said on Wednesday it was distressed by the latest video released by her captors in Iraq and called for her release.
  • Saboteurs blew up an oil pipeline and attacked an oil well, violence that is expected to stop oil exports for the next 10 days, Iraqi oil officials said Tuesday. Iraq’s oil industry, which provides desperately needed money for reconstruction efforts, has been the target of repeated attacks by insurgents.
  • At least eight people, including a woman, died early Tuesday when an explosives-laden car slammed into concrete blast walls and protective barriers surrounding the Education Ministry and exploded in Baghdad’s Sunni Muslim district of Azamiyah.
  • In Mosul, 225 miles northwest of Baghdad, a car bomb exploded near a military convoy carrying an Iraqi general, killing four civilians and wounding at least seven soldiers on Tuesday. Iraqi police said the attack was an assassination attempt on Maj. Gen. Rashid Feleih, commander of a special task force, who was not injured.
  • Al-Zarqawi’s group claimed in a Web posting Tuesday that it beheaded Japanese backpacker Shosei Koda after Tokyo refused to withdraw troops from Iraq. The claim was accompanied by a gruesome video showing the young Japanese, whose body was found Saturday in Baghdad, being beheaded on an American flag.

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