B A G H D A D, Iraq, Aug. 19 -- — The top U.N. official in Iraq was killed today after a massive truck bomb ripped through the world body's Baghdad headquarters. At least 16 others died and more than 100 were wounded in the most devastating attack ever on a U.N. facility.
The United Nations confirmed Sergio Vieira de Mello, the Brazilian who headed the U.N. mission in Iraq, had died. Vieira de Mello, 55, was in his office when the explosion occurred and was trapped in the rubble for hours.
U.N. officials said 17 people were killed, including seven U.N. employees. Of the 108 wounded, 86 have been hospitalized and 22 were hurt but walked away from the scene, U.N. officials said.
In a strong condemnation of the bombing, President Bush today called the attackers "enemies of the civilized world."
"These killers will not determine the future of Iraq," Bush told reporters at his ranch in Crawford, Texas. "Iraq is on an irreversible course toward self-government and peace. And America and our friends in the United Nations will stand with the Iraqi people."
In addition to Vieira de Mello, the U.N. employees killed in the blast were identified as Rick Hooper, an American who worked in the Department of Public Affairs; Fiona Watson, from the United Kingdom; Ranillo Buenaventura and Marilyn Manuel, both from the Philippines; Jean-Selim Kanaan, an Egyptian; and Chris Klein-Beckman, a 32-year-old Canadian who worked for the United Nations Children's Fund.
U.S. military officials in Baghdad said the bomb blew up near al Kanal hotel housing the U.N. headquarters in northeastern Baghdad around 4:30 p.m. local time. The hotel had been the headquarters for U.N. operations in Iraq since the 1991 Persian Gulf War, and housed the U.N. weapons inspection program and humanitarian assistance efforts.
A truck apparently approached al Kanal hotel from a parking area on the side of the building. A 12-foot-tall concrete wall had just been completed around the 600-by-900-foot hotel compound, but the site was not strictly guarded by police or military forces. It was unclear whether the truck tried to ram through the wall.