Bomb blast at Italian base in Iraq: 3 killed, many injured

A bomb blast rocked an Italian convoy at a base in southern Iraq on Thursday, killing at least three people and injuring others, the Defense Ministry said in a statement.

The bomb targeted a four-vehicle convoy on its way to relieve troops at the local Iraqi police station in the city of Nasiriyah, the statement said. One of the vehicles was destroyed, killing two Italians and one Romanian on board, and gravely injuring at least one more passenger.

The ministry had previously said that three Italians and one Romanian had been killed, but later corrected its numbers. Romania's Defense Ministry confirmed the death of the Romanian soldier and said they were killed when an explosives-laden car drove into the armored vehicle.

The Italian news agencies, citing government sources, reported that one of the wounded later died, which would raise the number of dead back to four.

Italy's president, Carlo Azeglio Ciampi, quickly released a statement expressing "dismay and immense grief." Center-left leader Romano Prodi, who will head the next Italian government, said in a statement that "this tragedy strikes at all of Italy," and added that he was close to the victims' families.

Premier Silvio Berlusconi said he was following the developments closely, and added that he was "profoundly grieved" by the deaths.

The Romanian Defense Ministry identified the Romanian soldier as corporal Bogdan Hancu, a 28-year-old military policeman from the eastern city of Iasi based at Camp Mittica near Nasiriyah.

Hancu is Romania's first combat casualty in Iraq. Romania has 860 troops in the country as part of the multinational force.

The convoy attacked Thursday at 8:50 a.m. local time was carrying an Italian Army officer, 15 troops with the Carabinieri paramilitary police and the Romanian, the Italian Defense Ministry statement said, reports the AP.

I.L.