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Last Updated: Saturday, 25 December, 2004, 16:41 GMT
Tanker bomb rocks Baghdad quarter
A US soldier walks past the tanker wreckage
Part of the tanker landed in the Libyan embassy compound
A suspected suicide attack using a bomb-laden fuel tanker has left nine dead and 13 injured in a diplomatic quarter of the Iraqi capital Baghdad.

Witnesses said the driver drove at high speed without lights before the bomb went off on Friday night, close to the Jordanian embassy.

The victims' bodies, including seven members of the same family, were dug from the rubble of houses.

The attack followed a surprise visit to Iraq by the US defence secretary.

Witnesses described a fireball shooting into the sky when the butane tanker, wired with explosives, blew up. The vehicle's tank landed close to the Libyan embassy.

The intended target is not clear but witnesses said the tanker was heading for a villa temporarily housing Jordan's embassy, which was destroyed by a car bomb last year.

Three houses were wrecked in the blast in an area where many high-ranking Iraqi government officials also live.

"I'm the only one left," a young woman said after arriving at the ruins of the house in which seven family members perished, including two children.

The confirmed death toll includes the driver, whose body was not recovered, police said.

Survivors were taken to a nearby hospital for treatment, some suffering from third-degree burns.

In other developments:

  • A privately-owned TV channel in Turkey screens a video in which one of the countries richest men, shipping magnate Kahraman Sadikoglu, says he has been kidnapped in Iraq

  • Fresh violence erupts in Mosul, where a roadside bomb wounds several Iraqi government troops and shots are reportedly fired near the city hall

  • A car bomb kills three people and injures two in the town of Khan al-Nus, between the Shia cities of Najaf and Karbala

  • Police in Najaf announce the arrest of a "terror cell" behind last week's huge bomb at a funeral which claimed more than 50 lives

  • Gunmen kill a respected Baghdad professor of medicine, Hassan al-Rubaiei, in a roadside ambush in the city

  • US marines announce the capture of two suspected leaders of militants allied to Jordanian terror suspect Abu Musab al-Zarqawi in Ramadi

Christian fears

Mansour is an affluent area of Baghdad, home to both Christians and Muslims.

The blast worried Iraqi Christians, who feared the possibility of Christmas Day attacks by insurgents.

Despite these fears, some had attended Christmas Eve mass in Baghdad.

"I will not let the terrorists intimidate me and make me shirk my religious duties," one Iraqi Christian told AFP.

US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld admitted "setbacks" during his visit to Iraq but he told soldiers they should not doubt their ability to win the war.


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