BAGHDAD — A bomb hidden in a meeting room killed two U.S. soldiers and two American government employees Tuesday at a local council office in the Baghdad district of Sadr City, according to the U.S. military.
U.S. authorities said an Italian working for the Defense Department was killed in the blast. Iraqi authorities said six Iraqis also died, bringing the total death toll to at least 11. An American soldier and 10 Iraqis were wounded, including three Iraqi council members.
The blast ripped through the municipal building just before elections to pick a chairman for a district advisory council in Sadr City, the densely populated Shiite Muslim slum that supporters of the militant cleric Muqtada al Sadr mostly control.
Lt. Col. Steven Stover, a spokesman for the U.S. military in Baghdad, said the bomb appeared to target the main candidate for the post and the Americans visiting for a regular meeting.
Stover said U.S. troops detained three suspects who tested positive for explosives residue. American investigators blamed the attack on "special groups," the military's term for cells of Shiite extremists with alleged links to Iran. The Iranian government has denied that it's fielding terrorist groups in Iraq.
The U.S. Embassy in Baghdad announced that the government employees killed in the blast were civilians with the State and Defense departments. The State Department employee was identified as Steven L. Farley of Guthrie, Okla.
Farley was a member of the U.S. embedded Provincial Reconstruction Team for the Sadr City and Adhamiyah districts, U.S. Ambassador Ryan Crocker said. Such reconstruction teams work alongside Iraqi officials to restore services and security in volatile areas of Iraq.