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Saddam loyalists suspected in New Year's Eve blast

U.S. commander says Saddam backers likely behind car bombing

Houses adjacent to Baghdad's Nabil restaurant were damaged in the New Year's Eve bombing.
Houses adjacent to Baghdad's Nabil restaurant were damaged in the New Year's Eve bombing.

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Acts of terror
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BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- A U.S. military commander said Thursday that supporters of Saddam Hussein most likely carried out a New Year's Eve attack on a Baghdad restaurant.

Brig. Gen. Mark Kimmitt told CNN eight people were killed in the car bomb attack on the Nabil restaurant in central Baghdad, which took place at 9:22 p.m. (1:22 p.m. ET), as patrons celebrated the imminent arrival of a new year.

No soldiers were killed or wounded at the restaurant but the civilian death toll remains unclear.

While the U.S. military reports eight people were killed, Iraqi police said seven were dead and 20 others wounded. Gen. Ahmed Kadhim Ibrahim, Iraq's national police chief, told CNN five people -- all Iraqis -- were killed and 14 others wounded.

Ibrahim also blamed the attack on a suicide bomber, but the U.S.-led Coalition Provisional Authority said the vehicle -- a green BMW -- was remotely detonated. (Full story)

The car exploded outside the restaurant, a trendy eatery popular with Westerners that had advertised a New Year's Eve celebration.

Among the wounded were three correspondents for the Los Angeles Times.

The insurgents behind the attack were most likely supporters of former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein, a U.S. military commander said Thursday.

"We have no indications right now who is responsible, but the method that was used would indicate that it probably was a member of the former regime who put the car bomb [beside] the restaurant when it blew up," Brig. Gen. Mark Kimmitt, the coalition's deputy chief of operations, told CNN's "American Morning."

Kimmitt dismissed reports from Iraqi officials that 1,000 pounds of explosives were used, saying his information indicated 400 pounds of high explosives and artillery shells were involved.

Ibrahim said authorities had information six days ago that such an attack was possible, though no specific target had been mentioned.

He said he ordered police to stay alert and set up checkpoints and told restaurants hosting New Year's Eve parties not to let cars park near their establishments.

U.S. forces were on heightened alert, fearing insurgents could launch other attacks to coincide with the New Year's holiday.

Earlier Wednesday, two roadside bombs detonated in the Iraqi capital, one targeting a U.S. military convoy.

An 8-year-old boy died in that attack, Iraqi sources said. Five U.S. soldiers and three Iraq Civil Defense Corps personnel also were injured, according to Brig. Gen. Martin Dempsey, commander of the U.S. Army's 1st Armored Division.

Other developments

• Coalition authorities are investigating what caused a five-ton military truck to flip over Thursday morning just outside Baghdad, killing one U.S. soldier and wounding six, according to the Coalition Joint Task Force. The truck was traveling south of Lake Habbaniya west of the Iraqi capital, heading to Baghdad International Airport, when it flipped on its side, the coalition said. Four of the six wounded soldiers have returned to duty; the other two remain hospitalized.

• A U.S. military helicopter experienced mechanical failure Thursday, forcing the aircraft to make a hard landing near the northern Iraqi city of Mosul, according to spokesmen from the 101st Airborne Division. One soldier received minor injuries in the incident and was taken to a hospital for treatment, Maj. Trey Cate said. Around 4:45 p.m. (8:45 a.m. ET), a warning light came on indicating a problem with the tail rudder system, Cate said. Seven passengers, including four crew members, were aboard at the time the craft went down southeast of Mosul. Soldiers from the 101st and the 4th Infantry Division, which controls the area around Mosul, are securing the helicopter until it can be recovered.

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