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Last Updated: Thursday, 1 January, 2004, 15:19 GMT
Iraq restaurant blast kills eight
Burning wreckage at the scene of the explosion
The authorities had warned of attacks amid New Year celebrations
The number of people killed when a car bomb tore through a Baghdad restaurant on Wednesday has risen to eight, coalition authorities say.

The blast was in the smart Karrada district of the capital, near the city centre and popular with foreigners.

Iraqi police say the bomb was detonated by a suicide bomber, and that a second bomber was arrested inside the cafe.

The US military and Iraqi police have been on high alert due to the risk of guerrilla attacks to mark the New Year.

About 30 people were injured in the latest attack, and those hurt included three Los Angeles Times journalists and four members of their support staff.

The British Foreign Office said that one Briton had been slightly injured, but was unable to confirm reports that a second person had been caught in the blast.

Soft target

The restaurant, Nabil, was packed with about 40 diners at the time of the explosion.

The extremely loud blast was heard across the rooftops of the city.

Several buildings adjoining the restaurant were seriously damaged and debris was strewn across the street.

A large crater was visible on a side street next to the restaurant, on the corner of a city block.

About 11,000 Iraqi police officers were deployed in the city for New Year's Eve.

Security is tight across the coalition headquarters, across all government buildings and targets such as major international hotels which were targeted at Christmas.

Christmas violence

Gunfire was heard after the explosion. US soldiers headed to the site of the blast and US military helicopters hovered overhead.

Lieutenant General Ahmed Kadhem - the deputy Iraqi interior minister and Baghdad chief of police - said that five people had died in the explosion.

On Christmas Day there was an upsurge in violence in Iraq.

In Baghdad alone there were 26 attacks - there are on average about 17 daily attacks on US forces across the whole of Iraq.

The BBC's Caroline Hawley
"It was timed to destroy a night meant to mark a new start"


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