Suicide bomber strikes bus headed for Shiite city; insurgents claim to kill American |

Suicide bomber strikes bus headed for Shiite city; insurgents claim to kill American

BAGHDAD, Iraq – A suicide bomber detonated explosives Thursday inside a packed bus bound for a southern Shiite city, killing 32 people and wounding 44, police said. The blast pushed the three-day death toll from suicide attacks in the capital to at least 75.Meanwhile, a statement posted on the Internet in the name of the Islamic Army in Iraq claimed to have killed an American hostage. The statement did not name him or provide photos, but the group earlier identified its captive as Ronald Alan Schulz and threatened to kill him unless all prisoners in Iraq were released.The suicide attack occurred as the bus was pulling away from east Baghdad’s Nadhaa station bound for Nasiriyah, 200 miles to the south. A man carrying a bag suddenly jumped on the vehicle through the open door, apparently waiting until the last moment to board to avoid security checks.He was challenged by the conductor but insisted on taking a seat, police Lt. Wisam Hakim said.”He sat in the middle of the bus and then the explosion took place,” Hakim said.Police Lt. Ali Mitaab said 32 people were killed and 44 wounded. Most of those killed were on the bus, which was gutted by flames, but several people around a food stall also died, police said.Officials at the scene said the death toll was especially high because the blast triggered secondary explosions in gas cylinders at the stall.Several other explosions rumbled through the heart of the capital Thursday morning, including one that struck an American convoy killing a U.S. soldier, the military said. The U.S. command also said that a Marine was killed the day before in a bombing in Ramadi, 70 miles west of Baghdad.The bus attack occurred two days after a pair of suicide attackers wearing explosives belts killed 43 people and wounded more than 70 at Baghdad’s police training academy. Most of those dead in the academy and on the bus were believed to be Shiite Muslims. Most of the insurgents are Sunnis.The station, the main departure point for buses heading to the Shiite south, was the scene in August of a horrific triple car bombing that killed at least 43 people and wounded 89.At least 1,819 Iraqis have been killed in suicide attacks since the new government took office on April 28, according to a count by The Associated Press. During that period, at least 4,676 Iraqis were killed in war-related violence, including suicide attacks.The latest attacks broke a relative lull in suicide missions in the capital, a respite that U.S. authorities had attributed to military operations against al-Qaida-led insurgents west of Baghdad.U.S. and Iraqi officials had predicted a surge in insurgent attacks ahead of the Dec. 15 parliamentary elections. U.S. officials hope a large turnout, especially among Sunni Arabs, will help take the steam out of the insurgency and set the stage for a drawdown of American forces next year.White House press secretary Scott McClellan said he could not confirm the death of the American hostage. Schulz’s family in North Dakota said he was an electrician and was last heard from in Amman, Jordan. His brother, Ed, said he was advised by the State Department that Schulz might still be alive, and his sister, Julie, said the family was “just trying to get some information.”It was the first time in more than a year that a group from the Sunni-led insurgency announced the slaying of an American hostage. Another American, freelance writer Stephen Vincent of New York City, was abducted and killed in August, and police blamed Shiite militants.In September 2004, al-Qaida in Iraq killed Jack Hensley of Marietta, Ga., and Eugene “Jack” Armstrong, formerly of Hillsdale, Mich. They had been abducted days before in Baghdad along with a Briton Kenneth Bigley, who also was killed.The Web statement posted Thursday said the Islamic Army killed “the American security consultant for the Housing Ministry” after the United States failed to respond to its demand of the release of Iraqi prisoners.”The war criminal Bush continues his arrogance, giving no value to people’s lives unless they serve his criminal, aggressive ways. Since his reply (to the demands) was irresponsible, he bears the consequences of his stance,” the statement said.”Therefore the American security consultant for the Housing Ministry was killed after the end of the deadline set to respond to the Islamic Army’s demands,” it said.On Tuesday, Bush said the United States will work for the return of captive Americans in Iraq but would not submit to terrorist tactics. “We, of course, don’t pay ransom for any hostages,” Bush said.Another group, the Swords of Righteousness, has set a Saturday deadline, threatening to kill four Christian humanitarian workers abducted two weeks ago, including an American, two Canadians and a Briton. A French aid worker and a German citizen are also being held by kidnappers.British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw on Thursday appealed again for communication from the group holding the four Christian peace activists.”If the kidnappers want to get in touch with us, we want to hear what they have to say,” Straw said. “We have people in Iraq itself and in the region, and they are ready to hear from the kidnappers.”

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