BAGHDAD – A suicide bomber detonated his explosives as American soldiers were handing out toys to children northeast of Baghdad on Sunday, killing at least three children and three of the troopers, U.S. and Iraqi authorities said.
Seven children were wounded in the attack in Baqouba, where U.S. soldiers wrested control from al-Qaida in Iraq last summer.
Police said the attack occurred as U.S. soldiers were handing out toys, sports equipment and other treats in a playground near Baqouba, 35 miles northeast of Baghdad.
Few details were available, but the U.S. military said it was a “suicide vest attack” and that three American soldiers were killed.
Rasoul Issam, 16, said he and his friends were playing soccer when the U.S. soldiers called to them from their vehicles to come get gifts.
“We ran toward them and I caught a ball when suddenly an explosion took place about 20 meters (yards) from us,” Issam said from his hospital bed in Baqouba.
Mohammed Sabah, 11, was hit by shrapnel in his hand and chest.
“The soldiers gave me pens and I thanked them. After this the explosion took place and I was hit by shrapnel,” he said. “The second thing I remember is being in the hospital.”
The deaths raised to at least 3,870 members of the U.S. military who have died since the Iraq war started in March 2003, according to an Associated Press count.
The military cast blame on al-Qaida in Iraq.