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Iraqis Blame Foreigners for U.N. Blast

August 20, 2003

BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) _ Many Iraqis blamed foreign followers of Osama bin Laden for the devastating U.N. bombing, others pointed to Saddam Hussein loyalists. All agreed that the U.S.-led occupation is ultimately the cause of the chaos in Iraq.

On a downtown Baghdad sidewalk, a group of six men playing dominos in the shade said Wednesday that such attacks only hurt Iraq’s attempts to rebuild.

``At present our country needs reconstruction not destruction,″ said Abdel-Amir Mohammed, 61, who works at a wealthy Baghdad home.

His fellow player, Hussein Jassem, a 58-year-old taxi driver, said he thought foreigners were working alongside Saddam loyalists to carry out the bombing.

``They attack everything that benefits the people, like electricity lines, oil pipelines or the U.N., `` said Jassem, playing dominos with friends on a sidewalk in central Baghdad.

At least 20 people were killed in Tuesday’s blast and more than 100 were wounded when a truck laden with explosives detonated outside the U.N. headquarters in Baghdad, tearing apart the building’s facade. Ahmad Chalabi, a member of Iraq’s American-picked Governing Council, said many bodies were still buried in the rubble.

Saddam’s regime vilified the United Nations in the state-run press over the past decade because of the crippling U.N. sanctions imposed after the 1990 invasion of Kuwait, and many Iraqis at the time echoed the denunciations of the world body. But all those interviewed Wednesday spoke positively of the world body.

The U.N. bombing, said Zainab Abdel-Majid, 38, a computer engineer, was a tragedy and ``meaningless.″

``What good would that do? It’s not like hitting American forces,″ she said. ``They were innocent people. We were hoping the U.N. would be a blessing for us ... we are in very dire situation.″

Iraqis are enraged by constant power cuts, water shortages and severe fuel shortages as temperatures have hit and exceeded 122 degrees.

Whoever they thought carried out the attack, all those spoke to on Wednesday pointed to the Americans as the cause of the chaos that opened the door for the bombing.

``This is the new Iraq for you,″ said a man mourning the death of a cousin, Saher Salim el-Lowz, a 30-year-old U.N. driver who was killed in the attack.

``Had we stayed the way we were, this sort of thing wouldn’t have happened,″ the man said Wednesday as he wiped away tears outside a hospital morgue. He refused to give his name, fearing retribution.

Yasser Lo’ay, 20, a university student, also blamed the attack on foreigners _ ``foreign terrorists who want the Iraqis to hate the Americans _ people like Jews or bin Laden.″

``I believe the Kuwaitis were behind it because they hate the Iraqi people and want to destroy them,″ said Mohammed Nizar, 20, also a student.

Azra Lafteh, 35, was convinced the bombing was the work of Saddam and his men.

``Is there anyone else but Saddam who would do such a thing?″ she asked. ``Why would anyone hit the U.N.? They came here to help us.″

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