Poland envoy hurt, guard killed in Iraq


BAGHDAD — Poland’s ambassador to Iraq was lightly wounded in a triple bomb attack on his diplomatic convoy in central Baghdad on Wednesday which killed a Polish bodyguard and an Iraqi passer-by, officials said.

Poland, a staunch U.S. ally which has around 1,000 troops stationed in southern Iraq, vowed to maintain its military presence, saying withdrawing forces in response to the attack would be “the worst possible mistake”.

“It was an assassination attempt. Our three cars drove onto mines,” said a foreign ministry spokesman in Warsaw.

“A few people are wounded. Our ambassador, Gen. Edward Pietrzyk scrambled out (of the wreckage) on his own.”

Iraqi police initially said one passer-by was killed in the blasts and five people were wounded, including three embassy officials. A Polish Interior Ministry spokesman later said a Polish bodyguard died in hospital.

Pietrzyk is the former head of Poland’s defence forces, which joined the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq to overthrow Saddam Hussein in 2003. A majority of Poles believe the troops should be withdrawn but Prime Minister Jaroslaw Kaczynski, who faces elections on Oct. 21, rejected calls for a pullout. “Desertion is always the worst option,” he 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.”

The explosions hit Pietrzyk’s convoy on a busy road in the Arasat district of central Baghdad, not far from the embassy.

Poland’s mission in Baghdad is outside the Green Zone, the heavily fortified district across the Tigris river where the United States and many other embassies are based.

Reuters Television pictures showed a European looking man with his head, leg and hands bandaged being evacuated in a helicopter which landed in the street after it was blocked off by Iraqi security forces.