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Baghdad Bomb Blast Kills Top UN Representative to Iraq, 14 Others - 2003-08-19

The top U.N. representative in Iraq and at least 14 other people have been killed in a bomb attack on U.N. headquarters in Baghdad.

The blast occurred at mid-afternoon in Baghdad and caused a large part of the U.N. compound to collapse. Hundreds of United Nations employees were inside at the time, but the numbers are still not clear and many were buried in the debris.

The U.S. military confirmed that the blast was caused by a car bomb. The top U.N. official in Iraq, Sergio Vieira de Mello, was in his office at the time of the blast and was killed. United Nations workers said it appeared that his office had been the target of the bomb.

One Iraqi man who spoke on condition of anonymity works as a U.N. security officer and was near the scene. "I don't have any details, not yet. I was calling my colleagues there. Most of them are all right, but some of them are wounded," he said.

U.S. Army helicopters patrolled the skies around the ruins of the United Nations compound and soldiers sealed off the area fearing that there could be a second bomb.

U.S. soldiers were also on the scene helping to remove the dead and injured from the building. A column of black smoke could be seen coming from the blast area.

Many Iraqis who work for the United Nations were outside the security cordon using their radios to try and get news about their colleagues.

Windows were blown out of cars and apartments a kilometer or more away from the blast. Many Iraqis were angry that attacks of this nature are still going on in their country.

Ahmed is a merchant in Baghdad and said that this is like a game that keeps going on here. He said the blast blew out the windows of his apartment and sent a wind through the entire area that made him lose his breath.

The United Nations headquarters, formerly the Canal Hotel, has been used by the U.N. for many years. United Nations weapons inspectors were based in the compound during their mandate in the 1990s.