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Mortar attack kills child in Baghdad

Strike near hotel injures 3 others

BAGHDAD, Iraq -- Two mortar shells targeting a hotel housing foreigners in the capital hit a house instead last night, killing a child and wounding three others. A third mortar shell hit a nearby road, causing no damage.

Crowds including panicked parents searching for children gathered at the scene, where police fired Kalashnikovs into the air to push people back.

The twin blasts, which shook much of the center of Baghdad, were aimed at the al-Sadeer Hotel, police said. The house that was hit was empty, witnesses said, and the casualties had been in the street at the time of the attack.

One child, aged 5 or 6, was killed, police said. Three other people were injured.

Witnesses said children had been playing in the street just before the blast. One barefoot woman raced out, frantically looking for her child.

"We lost him, we lost him," she screamed.

Also yesterday, Bulgaria and the Philippines stood fast in the face of Islamic insurgents' threats to kill their citizens taken hostage in Iraq, refusing demands to pull out troops or to pressure the United States to release Iraqi detainees.

As the two governments struggled with the hostage crisis, Iraqi clerics railed against emergency laws the government introduced this week to battle the insurgents, calling them undemocratic.

The Filipino hostage, Angelo dela Cruz, 46, and the two Bulgarians, Ivaylo Kepov and Georgi Lazov, were working as truck drivers when they were captured.

A group calling itself the Iraqi Islamic Army-Khaled bin al-Waleed Corps threatened to kill dela Cruz within three days if the Philippines fails to withdraw its 51 troops from Iraq. The deadline expires this weekend.

Jordanian militant Abu Musab al-Zarqawi's Tawhid and Jihad group -- which has claimed responsibility for the beheadings of two captives -- threatened to kill the Bulgarians if the United States does not release all Iraqi detainees in 24 hours.

The threat was made in a video broadcast yesterday.

Philippines Vice President Noli de Castro said the government "will not be cowed and be blackmailed by acts of terrorism."

But dela Cruz's family appealed to Philippine President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo to meet the kidnappers' demands.

"Help us," dela Cruz's 24-year-old son, Julisis, tearfully begged on Philippine radio. "Please pull out. We want to see him alive."

The family later met with the president.

Bulgarian Foreign Minister Solomon Pasi sounded a defiant note. "Bulgaria's foreign policy is clear and predictable and there is no way to change it because of one or another group," he said.

The Bulgarian Foreign Ministry said the truckers were kidnapped en route to the northern city of Mosul, coming from Bulgaria via Turkey and Syria. Their schedule would have put them in Mosul on June 29, the last day either man contacted his family.

Bulgaria has a 480-member infantry unit under Polish command in the southern city of Karbala, a small part of Iraq's 160,000 member multinational force.

Although the Philippines has only 51 soldiers and police in Iraq, 4,100 Filipino contractors serve crucial support roles on US military bases. . Arroyo on Thursday barred government agencies from sending more Filipino workers to Iraq.

The US military command said yesterday that an American soldier was killed in an insurgent attack on his patrol in Baghdad on Thursday. US forces detained two people in the attack.

Another soldier died Thursday in a "non-battle related incident," the military said yesterday.

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