Iraq blast hits French embassy convoy

Seven people wounded as roadside bomb strikes vehicle near ambassador's residence in Baghdad.

    A French embassy convoy has been hit by a roadside bomb in the Iraqi capital, Baghdad, wounding at least seven people, local security sources say.

    The bomb struck near the French ambassador's residence in the Mesbah district of southern Baghdad, and an embassy vehicle damaged by the explosion was left at the site, an AFP journalist said on Monday.

    "A single armoured vehicle carrying four French embassy guards was damaged by a roadside bomb at 8:17am local time (05:17GMT)," Denis Gauer, the French ambassador, said.

    "No one in the car was hurt and there is no indication the bomb was especially targeting this vehicle."

    An interior ministry official told the AFP news agency: "The bomb targeted a passing French diplomatic convoy. Four Iraqi guards protecting the convoy were hurt, and three people passing by were also wounded."

    A medical source at Ibn Nafis hospital confirmed it had received seven wounded Iraqis.

    Spike in violence

    A witness said the bomb appeared to have been placed under a parked vehicle.

    "A bomb under a parked car exploded as soon as a blue 4x4 vehicle from the embassy arrived. The embassy car was hurled forward a few feet," Abu Hassan, who witnessed the explosion, said.

    Violence has tapered off in Iraq since its peak in 2006-2007, when tens of thousands were killed in sectarian clashes. But bombings and kidnappings remain common.

    A private security firm, AKE Group, said last week that attacks had been rising since the start of the year, with violent incidents averaging more than 10 a day in May, up from four to five a day in January.

    Official figures put the death toll from attacks in May at 177, most of them killed by roadside bombs or with silencer-fitted handguns.

    The rise in violence comes with only months to go before US troops, in Iraq since the invasion of 2003, are due to complete a pullout.

    American officials have been pressing authorities in Baghdad to decide quickly whether or not to extend the US military presence beyond year-end.

    The issue is complicated by bickering within Iraq's national unity government, with Nuri al-Maliki, the prime minister, yet to appoint ministers of defence and interior, 16 months after parliamentary elections.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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