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Victims of UN Bombing in Baghdad Begin Arriving in Jordan - 2003-08-20

Victims of the Tuesday truck bomb attack at the United Nations headquarters in Iraq have begun to arrive in Jordan. The first planeload of evacuees arrived Wednesday at a military airport outside the Jordanian capital.

The first of several flights carrying U.N. personnel from Baghdad arrived midday at Amman's Marka airport and was met by United Nations officials based in Jordan.

U.N. officials at the facility say they were bringing in people who were wounded in Tuesday's bomb attack as well as non-essential staff members who have been ordered to leave Iraq.

The wounded are being treated at a Jordanian military hospital in Amman and a field hospital in Iraq. The Jordanian government offered the facilities Tuesday, hours after a truck bomb hit the U.N. headquarters in Baghdad.

Jordan's minister of state for foreign affairs, Shaher Bak, told VOA the attacks came as a shock but said Jordan would continue to support the United Nations and its efforts to help rebuild Iraq. "I don't think we need to review our position. Our position is very clear: Iraq [is] an independent state with its own sovereignty, its own unity, being governed by its own people. So therefore, I don't think our aims or our position has to change at all," he said.

Jordan's embassy in Baghdad was devastated last week by a car bombing in which 17 people were killed and more than 57 were wounded. Until then, a resistance by what were characterized as supporters of the deposed regime of Saddam Hussein had targeted primarily U.S. military personnel.

Some officials say foreign fighters have infiltrated Iraq and suggest that members of Osama bin Laden's al-Qaida terrorist network may now be operating in the country.

Mr. Bak noted similarities in the attacks on his embassy and the U.N. headquarters, but he said it is too early to say who is behind them. "We see a lot of things, which is to say similarities to what happened [Tuesday] and the attack our embassy faced last week. I don't say they are the same group," he said. "I don't have information. That's the fact. But what we have to be sure is that we have to face a situation which is going to be very difficult in the future."

U.N. officials say more flights are scheduled for Thursday.

Initial reports said all expatriate U.N. workers would be evacuated. But senior U.N. officials have since indicated some foreign staff will stay on and underscored that U.N. operations in Iraq will not stop because of Tuesday's attack.