The violence erupted Sunday when a suicide bomber detonated a car full of explosives near a downtown Baghdad hotel frequently used by foreigners and Iraqi government officials, killing six security guards and wounding some 35 others in the area.
Coalition officials said Monday that arrests had been made in the car bomb attack, according to the Associated Press.
The explosion, which left a large crater at the site, destroyed several cars in the Baghdad Hotel’s parking lot. Several nearby buildings were damaged but the hotel itself was relatively unscathed. Officials said security measures in place at the hotel, including a contingent of armed guards and large concrete barriers between the hotel and the parking lot, minimized damage and reduced the loss of life.
All six of those killed were Iraqi security guards. A member of Iraq’s Governing Council and one American were among the wounded.
“Pools of blood and flesh littered the street outside the hotel in the chaos that followed the explosion. As the surviving security guards struggled to restore order, firing shots in the air, two cars burned and the wounded screamed for help,” New York Times reporter Alex Berenson reported from Baghdad.
According to news reports a white Toyota Corolla sped through security gates near the hotel that had been opened to admit another vehicle. The driver apparently detonated the bomb 50 yards from the hotel entrance after coming under fire from security guards.
Investigators were also apparently looking into reports that another vehicle may have been involved in the attack, perhaps serving as a decoy.
Officials suspect the hotel may have been targeted as a symbol of U.S. power.
“The Baghdad Hotel houses five members of Iraq’s U.S.-appointed Governing Council, several cabinet ministers and other Iraqis who are working with the occupation authority,” the Washington Post reported. The Post further reported that several American government and contract workers reside in the hotel.
The U.S. civil administrator for Iraq, Paul Bremer, said reconstruction will continue in spite of terrorist attacks.
“The terrorists know that the Iraqi people and the coalition are succeeding in the reconstruction of Iraq,” Bremer said in a statement issued shortly after the bombing. “They do not share the vision of hope for this new Iraq. They will do anything, including taking the lives of innocent Iraqis, to draw attention away from the extraordinary progress made since liberation.”
Later in the day Sunday a U.S. soldier was killed when he drove over a landmine in the town of Beiji, north of Tikrit, Saddam Hussein’s hometown and former stronghold.
Another U.S. soldier was killed Monday when an unidentified attacker fired a rocket-propelled grenade at an American convoy in Tikrit, a U.S. military spokesman said.
A third American soldier was killed and two others wounded, also on Monday, when their convoy passed a roadside bomb and encountered small arms fire near the town of Jalawla, 75 miles northeast of Baghdad. The soldiers were from the 4th Infantry Division, the U.S. military said.
American officials have said that pockets of former regime supporters are responsible for continuing attacks on U.S. soldiers and Iraqi civilians.