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Blast kills 8 Iraqis, injures 13

By Wire services
Published September 26, 2003

BAGHDAD - An explosion at a market outside Baghdad killed eight Iraqis and wounded 13 Thursday, hours after a bomb damaged an NBC News office.

The market in Baqubah, about 30 miles north of Baghdad, is believed to have been struck by a mortar, U.S. military spokesman Sgt. Danny Martin said.

In Washington, the commander of U.S. forces in the Middle East said he is no longer counting on foreign troops to relieve American soldiers in Iraq early next year. A lack of foreign troops would almost assure that the Pentagon would have to send active-duty and National Guard soldiers to fill the gap.

The commander, Gen. John Abizaid, said he has until Wednesday to tell the Joint Chiefs of Staff whether sufficient allied forces will be available to replace American forces in Iraq.

"Since it doesn't look like we'll have a coalition brigade, we have no choice but to plan for American forces," Abizaid told reporters after he testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee.

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said he will meet next week with the heads of the armed services to discuss proposals for additional callups.

"We'll do it in an equitable way. We'll hope that we can call up as few as possible.... We'll give first choice to volunteers as opposed to people who have a complication in their life and would prefer not to," said Rumsfeld, who gave a series of interviews with television groups. "We certainly will try to call up those that have not been called up as recently as others."

Earlier Thursday, a bomb damaged a Baghdad hotel housing the offices of NBC News, raising fears of attacks against international media. A Somali guard was killed and an NBC sound engineer was slightly wounded in the early morning explosion at the small al-Aike Hotel in the city's fashionable Karrada district.

In the north, eight American soldiers were wounded - including three seriously - when their convoy was ambushed with roadside bombs and small-arms fire in Mosul, Iraq's third-largest city.

U.N. REDUCTION: The tenuous security situation prompted U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan to order a further reduction in U.N. international staff in Iraq after two bombings at U.N. headquarters, including one on Aug. 19 that killed 22 people.

Concern over security was behind Annan's decision to pare U.N. staff even as major countries urge a greater role for the world body in Iraq's reconstruction.

Annan's decision to "temporarily redeploy" an undetermined number of the 86 relief workers in Baghdad to Amman, Jordan, by Saturday will leave a largely symbolic U.N. presence in Iraq to direct the delivery of humanitarian relief by more than 4,000 Iraqis working for the United Nations. The U.N. chief's spokesman, Fred Eckhard, also raised the possibility that more members of the skeletal operation could be evacuated if security worsens.

At the time of the Aug. 19 bombing there were about 300 international staff in Baghdad and another 300 elsewhere in Iraq.

- Information from the Associated Press, Cox News Service and New York Times was used in this report.

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