BAGHDAD (AP) — A suicide truck bomb exploded on a major bridge in Baghdad early Thursday, collapsing the steel structure and sending cars tumbling into the Tigris River below, police and witnesses said. At least 10 people were killed.
Hospital officials said another 26 were injured, and police were trying to rescue as many as 20 people whose cars plummeted off the al-Sarafiya bridge.
Waves lapped against twisted girders, as patrol boats searched for survivors while U.S. helicopters whirred overhead. Scuba divers donned flippers and waded in from the riverbanks.
Farhan al-Sudani, a 34-year-old Shiite businessman who lives near the bridge, said the blast woke him at dawn.
“A huge explosion shook our house and I thought it would demolish our house. Me and my wife jumped immediately from our bed, grabbed our three kids and took them outside,” he said.
The al-Sarafiya bridge connected two northern Baghdad neighborhoods — Waziriyah, a mostly Sunni enclave, and Utafiyah, a Shiite area.
Police blamed the attack on a suicide truck bomber, but Associated Press Television News footage showed the bridge broken apart in two places — perhaps the result of two blasts.
Cement pilings that support the steel structure were left crumbling. At the base of one lay a charred vehicle engine, believed to be that of the truck bomb.
“We were astonished more when we saw the extent of damage,” said Ahmed Abdul-Karim, 45, who also lives near the bridge. “I was standing in my garden and I saw the smoke and flying debris.”
Locals said the al-Sarafiya bridge is believed to be at least 75 years old, built by the British in the early part of the 20th century.
“It is one of Baghdad’s monuments. This is really damaging for Iraq. We are losing a lot of our history every day,” Abdul-Karim said.
The al-Sarafiya bridge has a duplicate in Fallujah that was built later and made infamous in March 2004, when angry mobs hung the charred bodies of U.S. contractors from the bridge’s girders.
“This bridge is linked to Baghdad’s modern history — it is one of our famous monuments,” said Haider Ghazala, a 52-year-old Iraqi architect.
“Attacking this bridge affects the morale of Iraqis and especially Baghdad residents who feel proud of this bridge. They (insurgents) want to demolish everything that connects the people with this land,” he said.
Also Thursday, the U.S. military said its troops killed two suspected insurgents and captured 17 in raids across the country.