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Dead and injured in arsenal explosion
Posted: Friday, April 11, 2003

-- Al Jazeera

huge explosion destroyed around twenty houses in BaghdadMany Iraqi civilians and a US tank crew died today when a huge explosion destroyed around twenty houses in Baghdad, Al Jazeera channel reported.

The explosion is the result of US marines attempting to decommission Iraqi munitions and rockets left by Saddam Hussein’s army in the Atayfiyya residential quarter of the capital.

Our correspondent reports that a US tank was completely burned out with its two crew members still inside, suggesting that when the munitions were detonated, missiles launched in all directions, one slamming into the tank.

A local journalist, Aasim Jihad, who owns one of the houses destroyed by the huge explosion says that the Marines came across a sizeable arsenal of weapons in the Atayfiyya quarter and decided to destroy it immediately. Many local residents of Atafiyya pleaded with the US troops to remove the munitions far away from the district, fearing for their safety. However, these calls fell on deaf ears and the US soldiers fired a shell on the arsenal which exploded at once.

Jihad also explained to Al Jazeera that part of the arsenal contained over 200 missiles – Austrian in origin – and that the resulting explosion was like an inferno, emitting a terrifying explosion. The number of dead was increased by the fact that many other rockets flew off in all directions, some landing on houses of local residents.

The number of dead and wounded cannot be estimated at this time due to the severity of the wreckage. There are no emergency teams available, nor can ambulances and fire engines make their way to the fierce fires now raging. Looting and general lawlessness have prevented any organized responses to severe security and life threatening emergencies.

The explosion has also cut water to the residential quarter, adding to the already numerous concerns of those living near the scene. Their electricity had failed over a week ago. -- Al Jazeera

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