At least 12 Italians were killed in an explosion at the headquarters of the Italian military police in southern Iraq. Nine of the dead were military police and three were army soldiers.
Italian president Carlo Azeglio Ciampi called the bombing at the Italian military base in Nassiriya an ignoble act of terrorism. He said the soldiers were killed as they were doing their duty to help the Iraqi people rediscover peace, order, and security.
The suicide truck bomb was detonated in front of the base shortly before midday.
Officials say the number of dead could rise as soldiers are feared to be trapped in the rubble. Information is still sketchy because communication is difficult.
The deaths were the first suffered by Italian troops serving in the U.S.-led multinational force. Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi said the attack will not deter Italy's determination to continue its fight against terrorism.
When news of the attack reached Rome, the Italian parliament suspended its meeting and there were calls for parliament to reassess Italy's military presence in Iraq.