Tuesday, December 21, 2004
Attack on U.S. Base in Iraq Leaves 20 Dead.
BAGHDAD, Iraq - An explosion tore through a soft-sided mess tent where U.S. soldiers were eating lunch Tuesday at a military base near the northern city of Mosul, blowing a hole in the ceiling and leaving the floor littered with trays of food and puddles of blood. Officials said at least 20 people were killed in one of the most devastating attacks against Americans in Iraq since the start of the war.
A spokesman for U.S. military headquarters in Baghdad said 19 of the dead were American soldiers, which would make it the deadliest single strike against U.S. troops in this country. However, a military spokesman in Mosul said 14 U.S. troops died in the blast, which came just four days before Christmas.
Inside the tent, U.S. soldiers reacted quickly. With people screaming and thick smoke billowing, soldiers turned their lunch tables upside down, placed the wounded on them and gently carried them into the parking lot, said Jeremy Redmon, a reporter for the Richmond (Va.) Times-Dispatch embedded with the troops in Mosul.
A radical Sunni Muslim group, the Ansar al-Sunnah Army, claimed responsibility for the attack, which officials said wounded about 60 people — the latest in a week of deadly strikes across Iraq that highlighted the unwavering power of the insurgents in the run-up to the Jan. 30 national elections.
President Bush said the explosion should not derail the elections and that he hoped relatives of those killed know that their loved ones died in "a vital mission for peace."