Fuel truck blast near airport

2009-10-04 18:04

Baghdad - A fuel tanker exploded Sunday near a checkpoint outside of Baghdad International Airport, Iraqi officials said, along a route once known as the world's deadliest road because of frequent attacks there during the height of the insurgency.

There were conflicting reports about the cause of the explosion with Iraqi police saying it was a bomb attached to the truck while an airport official maintained it was an accident.

At least five guards at the checkpoint were wounded, the two officials said. There were no fatalities reported.

The police official said a bomb attached to the tanker detonated at the checkpoint on the four-lane road leading to the airport.

But airport spokesperson Kareem al-Timini said the explosion was an accident that was caused when the driver started a fire on the side of the road.

"It was a fire the driver set to cook his breakfast," he said.

The explosion caused four other tankers to catch fire, al-Timini and the police official said.

The tanker caught fire at a checkpoint that also leads to Camp Victory, the US military headquarters next to the airport.

Al-Timini said the tanker was part of a fuel convoy on its way to the American base.

But a military spokesperson, Raymond Piper, denied the tanker was part of an American convoy, though he did not immediately say whether the truck was headed to the base.

The cause of the fire was under investigation.

"We have conflicting reports on the cause," Piper said in an e-mail to The Associated Press. "Eyewitness reports said it was due to the driver cooking under the truck."

He also said there were reports of a roadside bomb, though no US bomb disposal personnel were requested.

The police official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorised to release the information.

The road, dubbed "Route Irish" by the US military, connects the fortified Green Zone with the airport. It gained notoriety after the 2003 US-lead invasion because of the frequent attacks along it during the height of the insurgency.

Attacks along the road all but stopped during the past two years as violence declined dramatically in Iraq.