A suspected suicide bomber blew himself up in the Iraqi parliament cafeteria in a stunning assault in the heart of the heavily fortified, U.S.-protected Green Zone Thursday, killing at least eight people, the American military spokesman said.
Maj. Gen. William Caldwell told Associated Press Broadcast that eight people were killed in the attack. Iraqi officials said the bomber struck the cafeteria while several lawmakers were eating lunch, killing three of them. State television reported as many as 30 wounded.
The blast in the parliament building came hours after a suicide truck bomb exploded on a major bridge in Baghdad, collapsing the steel structure and sending cars tumbling into the Tigris River, police and witnesses said. At least 10 people were killed.
After the blast, security guards sealed the building and no one — including lawmakers — was allowed to enter or leave.
A spokesman for the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad said no Americans were hurt in the blast.
President Bush was briefed on the blast, and White House spokesman Scott Stanzel said the multinational forces will be taking steps to strengthen security and make sure that such an attack doesn't happen again.
Maj. Gen. William Caldwell said witness accounts indicated a suicide attack.
"We don't know at this point who it was. We do know in the past that suicide vests have been used predominantly by al-Qaida," the U.S. military spokesman said in an Associated Press broadcast interview.
One of the dead lawmakers was Mohammed Awad, a member of the Sunni National Dialogue Front, said party leader Saleh al-Mutlaq. A female Sunni lawmaker from the same list was wounded, he said.
The other legislator killed was Taha al-Liheibi, of the Sunni Accordance Front that holds 44 seats in parliament, said Mohammed Abu Bakr, who heads the legislature's media department.
Abu Bakr said he saw the bomber's body amid the scene.
"I saw two legs in the middle of the cafeteria and none of those killed or wounded lost their legs — which means they must be the legs of the suicide attacker," he said.
Several other lawmakers also said they saw the limbs, believed to be those of the bomber.
Earlier in the day, security officials used dogs to check people entering the building in a rare precaution — apparently concerned that an attack might take place.
But a security scanner that checks pedestrians at the entrance to the Green Zone near the parliament building was not working Thursday, Abu Bakr said. People were searched only by hand and had to pass through metal detectors, he said.
Güncelleme Tarihi: 20 Eylül 2018, 18:16
Khalaf al-Ilyan, one of the three leaders of the Iraqi Accordance Front, which holds 44 seats, said the attack was "aimed at everyone — all parties — our parliament in general being a symbol and a representative of all segments of Iraqi society."
Al-Ilyan, who is in Jordan recovering from knee surgery, said the blast also "underlines the failure of the government's security plan."
"The plan is 100 percent a failure. It's a complete flop. The explosion means that instability and lack of security has reached the Green Zone, which the government boasts is heavily fortified," he said.
U.S. Embassy spokesman Lou Fintor said its officials were "investigating the nature and source of the explosion. No embassy employees or U.S. citizens were affected."
Hadi al-Amiri, head of the parliament's security and defense committee, said the blast shook the building just after legislators ended their main meeting, and broke into smaller committees.
"A few brothers (fellow lawmakers) happened to be in the cafeteria at the time of the explosion," al-Amiri told Al-Arabiya television. "But had they been able to place this bomb inside the meeting hall, it would have been a catastrophe."
Al-Amiri said Iraqi forces are in charge of security in the building, and that explosives could have been smuggled in amid restaurant supplies.
A television camera and videotape belonging to a Western TV crew was confiscated by security guards moments after the attack.
Attacks in the Green Zone are rare.
In addition to killing 10 people, Thursday's bombing of the al-Sarafiya bridge wounded 26, hospital officials said, and police were trying to rescue as many as 20 people whose cars plummeted off the span.
Waves lapped against twisted girders as patrol boats searched for survivors and U.S. helicopters flew overhead. Scuba divers donned flippers and waded in from the riverbanks.
Farhan al-Sudani, a 34-year-old Shiite businessman who lives near the bridge, said the blast woke him at dawn.
"A huge explosion shook our house and I thought it would demolish our house. Me and my wife jumped immediately from our bed, grabbed our three kids and took them outside," he said.
Police blamed the attack on a suicide truck bomber, but AP Television News video showed the bridge broken in two places — perhaps the result of two blasts.
Cement pilings that support the steel structure were left crumbling. At the base of one lay a charred vehicle engine, believed to be that of the truck bomb.