BAGHDAD - Insurgents fired at least three mortars or rockets at the heart of the U.S.-led administration in the Iraqi capital Baghdad on Tuesday, wounding four people in the second brazen attack on the compound in as many nights.
The explosions shook the city, with the concussion felt by reporters at a hotel on the opposite side of the river Tigris.
American military combat casualties also climbed on Tuesday to 252 since the invasion when a roadside bomb killed one soldier and wounded two troops in Baghdad. British combat deaths rose to 52 with the report of a Royal Marine killed by hostile fire during a military operation last Friday.
And in a setback to American hopes of stabilizing Iraq, key political ally Spain said it was recalling some embassy and other staff following last week's bombing of the Red Cross headquarters and three police stations in Baghdad in which 35 people were killed.
A U.S. army spokesman in Baghdad said there were three blasts on Tuesday evening. He said the wounded were from U.S.-occupation forces, although it was not known if they were military.
"Three were taken to hospital inside the green zone and one was treated at the scene," said the spokesman.
The blasts occurred inside the U.S.-controlled "green zone," a sprawling area formerly home to one of Saddam Hussein's palaces and which includes U.S. military bases and the headquarters of the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) ruling Iraq, guards said.
U.S.-led forces ousted Saddam in April.
"There were a lot of soldiers running around, there was a lot of panic," said Mohammad Shikri, the Iraqi guard at the complex. Journalists were prevented from entering the area.
Insurgents have shown increasing audacity in their attacks.
On Monday, an explosion echoed across the city after dark, followed by three mortar blasts near the CPA headquarters. No casualties were reported in that attack.
Guerrillas also fired rockets at a hotel inside the U.S. complex on October 26 while Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz was staying there, killing a U.S. soldier.
The spokesman said he had no details on the precise location of Tuesday's blasts. He said the CPA headquarters had not been hit.
Pentagon officials said initial reports suggested the blasts might have been caused by missile or mortar fire.
AID AGENCIES WITHDRAW STAFF
The violence has forced aid agencies to withdraw foreign staff.
Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar said Spaniards being withdrawn included some embassy staff and Spaniards working for the governing body.
"It's obviously because of security concerns," embassy First Secretary Pablo Ruperez told Reuters. "This is Baghdad, after all." He said the staff had already left for Jordan.
A Spanish sergeant working at the embassy for his country's National Intelligence Center, was shot dead near his Baghdad home last month.
In Iraq's northern city of Mosul, five rocket-propelled grenades were fired at a hotel used as a U.S. military compound but no one was hurt. Also in Mosul, gunmen on Tuesday killed a second Iraqi judge in two days, police said. The first was in southern Iraq.
The Spanish action followed a promise by President Bush on Monday that the United States would not run from what he called its vital mission in Iraq.
As Bush spoke, a powerful car bomb exploded outside a hotel in the restive Shi'ite city of Kerbala, southwest of Baghdad, killing at least two people. Angry residents blamed U.S. forces for not doing enough to bring about peace and security.
"The devil Saddam Hussein is gone. Now another devil is back terrorizing us," said Idris Abed, a former army officer.
"We are scared to walk the streets and we are not safe in our homes. If security does not improve, there will be more explosions and death in Kerbala."
Bush's comments were his first since 15 soldiers were killed when guerrillas shot down a CH-47 Chinook helicopter on Sunday in the worst single attack against coalition forces since the U.S. invasion.
Bush on Monday gained U.S. Senate approval for his request for $87.5 billion to finance U.S. occupation forces in Iraq and Afghanistan and the rebuilding of Iraq through much of 2004.
Additional reporting by Michael Georgy in Kerbala and Seb Walker in Mosul
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