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The Conflict in Iraq

Attack on American Base in Kirkuk Triggers Blasts

June 03, 2004|From Times Wire Services

KIRKUK, Iraq — A guerrilla attack Wednesday on a major U.S. military base here triggered a huge chain of explosions in an arms dump that left much of the area ablaze and shrouded in smoke, but no casualties were reported.

Shells and rockets screamed into the night sky after the attack on the U.S. base at an airport on the edge of this oil hub city in northern Iraq.

"You can see rockets flying and landing all over the base," a Reuters correspondent said from a vantage point about 500 yards from the base's perimeter, as thick black smoke poured over the city.

Loudspeaker announcements could be heard on the base warning troops to stay under cover, but there was no sign of emergency vehicles in Kirkuk, a city of 700,000, which has been under curfew after dark because of regular guerrilla violence.

Mortar and rocket attacks on U.S. bases are almost daily occurrences across Iraq.

In a videotape obtained by Associated Press Television News, meanwhile, five masked gunmen displayed two captive truck drivers, a Turk and an Egyptian, and said they had been kidnapped for working with the U.S.-led occupation.

One of the masked men threatened to kill the two unless their governments condemned U.S. actions in Iraq. The captives, who appeared unharmed, displayed their passports and ate food from plates on a carpet.

The abduction was the latest in a wave of kidnappings of foreigners.

People who abducted a Polish contractor have demanded ransom in phone calls, said another Pole who was also kidnapped but managed to escape. They did not specify a ransom amount in the calls, he said.

The Jedynka construction company said that it was prepared to pay to secure the release of Jerzy Kos, 64, its office director in Iraq.

Also Wednesday, an Arabic-language television station aired a tape dated May 31 of three Italian hostages held in Iraq.

"We have been treated in an excellent manner up to now," Al Jazeera quoted one of the Italians as saying as they ate at a table. A hostage colleague of the trio was shot dead in April when Italy rejected demands that it withdraw its troops from Iraq.

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