The blast occurred around 10:30 am local time, when a bomb — apparently planted in a minibus parked outside the walled embassy compound — was detonated by remote control, witnesses told the Associated Press. The massive explosion brought down one wall of the embassy and destroyed several nearby cars, hurling vehicles and body parts onto neighboring rooftops and streets.
Preliminary reports from witnesses and hospital workers put the death toll between seven and 12. Iraqi morgue officials reported at least eleven people, including two children, were killed. By midday, U.S. officials in Iraq confirmed the deaths of eight people.
“We had persons unknown, pull a vehicle in front of the embassy — the Jordanian Embassy — stop the vehicle, exit the vehicle and walk away, and the vehicle sometime later was detonated with a large amount explosives inside,” Bernard Kerik, former New York police commissioner who is overseeing the reorganization of the Iraqi police force, told reporters shortly after the blast.
Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, commander of U.S. ground forces in Iraq, called the attack on the Jordanian Embassy a “terrorist attack” and said it was “the worst on a soft [non-military] target in terms of casualties” since U.S. forces seized control of Baghdad April 9. He said the bombing demonstrated that the insurgents in Iraq presented an international problem, not just a threat to U.S. and coalition forces.
“We believe that some Iraqi police officers were included in that number of dead. And then we still do not have an accurate accounting of the number wounded,” Sanchez said at a news conference in Iraq.
Amir Naeef, the chief of police for the western part of Baghdad, told the Associated Press that at least four Iraqi security guards were among the dead and the others killed may have worked at the embassy.
The Jordanian consul, Karim Shushan, was among the wounded, according to Ahmed al-Bakri, a doctor at the Yarmuk Hospital.
Shortly after the blast, young Iraqi men stormed into the embassy and began destroying pictures of Jordanian King Abdullah II and his late father, King Hussein, as they shouted anti-Jordanian chants. American forces and Iraqi police quickly cleared them out of the embassy ruins, news agencies reported.
In Jordan, Information Minister Nabil al-Sharif condemned the “cowardly terrorist attack.”
In an interview on the Al-Jazeera satellite channel, Al-Sharif said the incident would “not divert Jordan from carrying out its role and we will continue supporting the process of security and stability in Iraq, and to offer all possible assistance to our brethren in Iraq.”
The Jordanian government had “no idea about who stands behind this criminal terrorist act” and had no “clear picture about the motives behind this cowardly act,” Al-Sharif said.
In a separate incident later Thursday, a fierce gunbattle broke out after Iraqi insurgents fired rocket-propelled grenades at U.S. soldiers whose Humvees were parked outside a store in central Baghdad, according to U.S. Central Command. At least two U.S. soldiers were wounded, military officials said.
Thursday’s attacks come one day after unknown assailants killed two soldiers from the First Armored Division in a gunfight in Baghdad’s Al Rasheed district on Wednesday around 11:00 pm local time, Central Command reported. Their interpreter was also wounded in the attack, military officials said.
The deaths Wednesday night brought to 55 the number of U.S. troops killed in combat since May 1, when President Bush declared the end of major fighting over.