BAGHDAD – Poland’s ambassador to Iraq was wounded on Wednesday when his diplomatic convoy was hit by a series of bombs in central Baghdad, which Polish officials described as an assassination attempt.
Iraqi police said one civilian was killed in the attack and five people were wounded, including three embassy officials.
‘It was an assassination attempt. Our three cars drove onto mines,’ a Polish foreign ministry spokesman said in Warsaw.
‘A few people are wounded. Our ambassador, Gen. Edward Pietrzyk, scrambled out (of the wreckage) on his own.’
Poland backed the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003 which toppled Saddam Hussein and currently has around 1,000 troops in the country.
The explosions took place on a busy road in the Arasat district of central Baghdad.
‘A difficult situation’
In Warsaw, Prime Minister Jaroslaw Kaczynski said Poland would not withdraw its troops from Iraq after the attack on the ambassador.
‘Desertion is always the worst option,’ Kaczynski told reporters. ‘This is a difficult situation, but those who became engaged and were there for years and then withdraw are making the worst possible mistake.’
Kaczynski and his ruling conservative party, facing a snap election on Oct. 21, support extending the Iraq mission beyond the end of the year even though a majority of Poles believe troops should be coming home.
Some opposition parties are also calling for the end to the mission, and the attack on the Polish ambassador could bring the issue up on the campaign agenda.
Injuries on the street
Reuters Television pictures showed a European-looking man with his head, leg and hands bandaged being evacuated in a helicopter that landed in the street.
Iraqi soldiers said the man, who was surrounded by security guards and troops, was the Polish ambassador. They said other wounded people had been taken by vehicle to the heavily fortified Green Zone for treatment.
Three cars appeared to have been hit in the attack. Two of them were completely burned and the third, a sport utility vehicle with shaded windows, carried a red and white diplomatic flag, a witness said.
The street had been blocked off by Iraqi security forces.
Several diplomats have been killed by suspected al-Qaida militants in Baghdad since the 2003 invasion. Last year, four Russian diplomats were abducted and killed.
In 2005, militants said they had killed Egyptian mission chief Ihab el-Sherif and Bahrain’s envoy was shot and wounded when gunmen opened fire on his car.
Iraqi security forces, backed by thousands of extra U.S. troops, have imposed a security crackdown across the Iraqi capital in recent months in an effort to curb sectarian fighting and militant attacks.
Both Baghdad and Washington say the campaign has led to a clear reduction in violence. But a group led by Sunni Islamist al-Qaida fighters pledged last month to step up attacks to mark the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.