CODEL Members Safe Following Baghdad Blast

Posted August 19, 2003 at 10:59am

Seven members of a Congressional delegation to Iraq are safe and in a secure location after a car bomb tore into the U.N. headquarters in Baghdad earlier this morning. The apparent suicide attack has collapsed one side of the U.N. building.

The United Nations reported that at least 14 people were killed in the bomb blast, which occurred late afternoon in Iraq.

Sergio Vieira de Mello, the U.N. special representative to Iraq, was killed in the attack, according to the United Nations.

The bipartisan CODEL was not in the vicinity when the blast occurred, according to Mark Schuermann, chief of staff for Rep. Harold Ford Jr. (D-Tenn.). Along with Ford, the delegation includes Sens. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), James Inhofe (R-Okla.), Kay Bailey Hutchinson (R-Texas), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), John Sununu (R-N.H.) and Rep. Jim Kolbe (R-Ariz.) and is being led by Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.).

A statement from McCain’s office said that the delegation was touring military sites around Baghdad today when the blast went off. Scheurmann said the delegation was 10 miles away from the blast and had been meeting with the top American administrator in Iraq, Paul Bremer, and the commander of coalition ground forces Lt. General Ricardo Sanchez when the blast occurred.

Hutchinson’s office said the delegation would leave Iraq early for Kuwait this afternoon.

Kolbe’s office said that the Pentagon contacted the Members’ offices this morning after the blast occurred to inform them that the delegation was safe. Schuermann said he had talked to Ford and that the Congressman had assured him he was safe but concerned and that military officials were briefing the delegation on the ground on the developing situation.

Six weeks ago, the first CODEL to Iraq, which included Sens. Joseph Biden (D-Del.), Dick Lugar (R-Ind.) and Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.), met with de Mello.

The trip is being coordinated through the Navy Department.