Bomber attacks bus, killing 32 Iraqis
Militant group says it has slain American captive
A man detonated explosives inside a packed bus in Baghdad yesterday, bringing the three-day death toll from suicide attacks in the capital to at least 75. Meantime, an unconfirmed statement said an American hostage has been killed. (Getty Images)
BAGHDAD -- A suicide bomber detonated explosives yesterday inside a packed bus bound for a southern Shi'ite 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 said an American hostage was killed. 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 Lieutenant Wisam Hakim said.
''He sat in the middle of the bus and then the explosion took place," Hakim said.
Police Lieutenant 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 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 yesterday morning, including one that struck an American convoy killing a US soldier, the military said. The US command also said 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 Shi'ite Muslims. Most of the insurgents are Sunnis.
The station, the main departure point for buses heading to the Shi'ite 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 US authorities had attributed to military operations against Al Qaeda in Iraq operatives west of Baghdad.
US and Iraqi officials had predicted a surge in insurgent attacks ahead of the Dec. 15 parliamentary elections.
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."