This news from Iraq, the Associated Press is reporting that up to 40 people have died today in a series of near simultaneous bombings in Baghdad. A suicide car bombing outside the Red Cross killed 12 marking the biggest bombing against an international organization since mid-August when the UN headquarters was bombed killing 22. Four Iraqi police stations were also bombed today. A fifth station was targeted but police stopped the attack. Police reported the would-be bomber was screaming at the time of his arrest `Death to the Iraqi police! You’re collaborators!’”
The bombing at the Red Cross came one day after the Baghdad hotel where Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz was staying came under rocket attack. A U.S. colonel was killed and 18 people were injured in the attack on the al Rasheed. Wolfowitz was forced to evacuate the hotel. He was uninjured. The hotel, which also came under fire four weeks ago, has been described as the nerve center of the U.S. occupation. It houses hundreds of top officials with the U.S.-led Coalition Provisional Authority, the military and defense contractors. The Pentagon said Wolfowitz was not likely the target of the attack but hours before the blast Wolfowitz’s motorcade had to be rerouted through Baghdad after a bomb was found along the planned route. Wolfowitz was one of the chief architects of the invasion of Iraq. He was on a three-day visit of Iraq to highlight some of the successes over the past six months.
Meanwhile on Saturday, Iraqi opposition forces downed a U.S. Army Black Hawk helicopter near Tikrit. And three employees of the British firm European Landmine Solutions died when their convoy came under attack 50 miles west of Baghdad. Two survivors of the attack told the Associated Press they had been fired upon by U.S. forces. U.S officials denied the charges. The Pentagon also reported that three more U.S. soldiers were killed on Sunday.
Today’s attacks coincided with the start of Ramadan. U.S. officials had warned the start of the Muslim Holy Month may lead to an increased number of attacks against occupation forces.
In other Iraq news, the Christian Science Monitor reports that plans for Turkey to send 10,000 troops into Iraq to relieve U.S. forces have been all but shelved due to widespread opposition from Iraqis including members of the U.S.-appointed Governing Council.
The President of Halliburton is urging the company’s 100,000 employees to write letters to newspapers and lawmakers to help improve Halliburton’s image. In a memo titled “Defending Our Company” president Dave Lesar claims that recent criticism of Halliburton is “inaccurate and unwarranted, and not based on the realities we face in Iraq.” Halliburton, which used to be run by Vice President Dick Cheney, has come under criticism after the Pentagon awarded it several no-bid contracts worth up to $7 billion to help rebuild Iraq. Two weeks ago, California Representative Henry Waxman accused Halliburton of overbilling the government by $200 million on the cost of importing gas. Cheney still receives about $150,000 in deferred payments from Halliburton. That is slightly less than the $186,000 Cheney receives annually for serving as Vice President.
In Gaza Israel forced the evacuation of 2,000 Palestinians Sunday before it demolished three 12-story apartment buildings. In the West Bank Israeli troops raided two hospitals in order to capture two wanted militants. Palestinian doctors said the raids violated international law. One of the men, identified as a member of Hamas, was removed from intensive care. Also this weekend, the International Solidarity Movement reported that Israeli troops shot two of its foreign volunteers, Mark Turner of Boulder, Colorado and Joshua Taaffe of Australia.
The chairman of the federal commission investigating the Sept. 11 attacks Thomas Kean has announced he plans to subpoena documents from the White House if the Bush administration continues to refuse to hand over requested intelligence documents. Fellow commissioner Max Cleland told the New York Times that the commission may not be able to complete its work by its May 2004 deadline. Cleland, a former Democratic senator from Georgia said the Bush administration is purposely stalling the investigation because of the 2004 election. Cleland said, “As each day goes by, we learn that this government knew a whole lot more about these terrorists before Sept. 11 than it has ever admitted.”
In Southern California wildfires have claimed the lives of at least 13 people and burned down 850 homes. More than 270,000 acres are aflame.
On Saturday tens of thousands marched in Washington and San Francisco to call for an end to the Iraq occupation. In Washington organizers put the crowd size at 100,000. Speakers included former Attorney General Ramsey Clark and presidential candidate the Rev. Al Sharpton. Meanwhile in Brussels, about 500 protesters were arrested Saturday after trying to break into NATO’s military command center during an anti-nuclear protest.
And the former mayor of Washington DC, Walter Washington has died at the age of 88. He was the first African American to head the government of a major US city.