Wednesday, April 18, 2007
157 Dead in Baghdad. 60 U.S. Troops Killed so far in April.
SINAN SALAHEDDIN | AP | April 18, 2007
BAGHDAD — Four large bombs exploded across Baghdad on Wednesday, killing at least 157 people and wounding scores as violence climbed toward levels seen before the U.S.-Iraqi campaign to pacify the capital began two months ago.
In the deadliest of the attacks, a parked car bomb detonated in a crowd of workers at the Sadriyah market in a mostly Shiite area of central Baghdad, killing at least 82 people and wounding 94, said Raad Muhsin, an official at Al-Kindi Hospital where the victims were taken.
A police official confirmed the toll, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to release the information.
The attack was one of four bombings in Baghdad on Wednesday afternoon, which killed at least 157 people in total, officials said.To the west of the city, U.S. troops killed five suspected insurgents and captured 30 others in a raid in Anbar province, a day after police uncovered 17 decomposing corpses beneath two school yards in the provincial capital.
Iraqi troops took charge of security Wednesday in the southern province of Maysan, a region that borders Iran and the fourth province to come under full Iraqi security control since the 2003 U.S. invasion.
In one of the Baghdad attacks, a suicide car bomber crashed into an Iraqi police checkpoint at an entrance to Sadr City, the capital's biggest Shiite Muslim neighborhood and a stronghold for the militia led by radical anti-U.S. cleric Muqtade al-Sadr.
The explosion killed at least 30 people, including five Iraqi security officers, and wounded 45, police said.
Black smoke billowed from a jumble of at least eight incinerated vehicles that were in a jam of cars stopped at the checkpoint. Bystanders scrambled over twisted metal to drag victims from the smoldering wreckage as Iraqi guards staggered around stunned.
About an hour later, a parked car bomb detonated at the Sadriyah market in a mostly Shiite area of central Baghdad, killing 82 civilians and injuring 94, police and hospital officials said. Several cars were set afire at the market, where a car bombing in February killed 137 people.
Earlier, a parked car exploded near a private hospital in the central neighborhood of Karradah, killing 11 people and wounding 13, police said. The blast damaged the Abdul-Majid hospital and other nearby buildings.
The fourth explosion was from a bomb left on a minibus in the northwestern Risafi area, killing four people and wounding six others, police said.
Also in Baghdad, four policemen were killed Wednesday afternoon when gunmen ambushed their patrol south of the city center, police said. Six pedestrians were wounded in the gunfire.
U.S. officials had cited a slight decrease in sectarian killings in Baghdad since the U.S.-Iraqi crackdown was launched Feb. 14. But the past week has seen several spectacular attacks on the capital, including a suicide bombing inside parliament and a powerful blast that collapsed a landmark bridge across the Tigris River.
"We've seen both inspiring progress and too much evidence that we still face many grave challenges," Maj. Gen. William Caldwell, a U.S. military spokesman, told reporters Wednesday. "We've always said securing Baghdad would not be easy."
A ceremony was held in Maysan's provincial capital of Amarah, 200 miles southeast of Baghdad, and was attended by senior Iraqi and coalition officials including Iraqi National Security Adviser Mowaffak al-Rubaie and the British commander in southern Iraq, Maj. Gen. Jonathan Shaw.
Al-Rubaie said that in order for a timetable to be set for the withdrawal of foreign troops, Iraqi forces and local authorities have to be ready to take over. He was apparently referring to calls by some Sunni Arab groups and al-Sadr's Shiite followers to set a timetable for a pullout.
"We should work to create these circumstances in all provinces, in order to revert security to Iraqis and end the foreign presence," said al-Rubaie, who represented Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, the commander in chief of Iraq's armed forces.
Al-Maliki was supposed to attend the ceremony but his trip was canceled without explanation.
The U.S. raid took place early Wednesday near Karmah, a town northeast of Fallujah, which lies 40 miles west of Baghdad.
The U.S. raid took place early Wednesday near Karmah, a town northeast of Fallujah in Anbar, a vast province west of Baghdad.
American forces raided a group of buildings suspected of being used by militants and found explosives inside one of them, the military said in a statement. A helicopter was called in and dropped precision-guided bombs on the buildings, it said.
The soldiers came under fire and shot back, killing five Iraqis and wounding four others, the statement said. The wounded were taken to a military hospital and remained in U.S. custody. Twenty-six other people were detained as well, the military said.
The bodies found a day earlier at school yards in Ramadi, Anbar's provincial capital, were discovered after students and teachers returned to the schools a week ago and noticed an increasingly putrid odor and stray dogs digging in the area, police Maj. Laith al-Dulaimi said.
Ramadi had been a stronghold of Sunni insurgents and al-Qaida fighters until recently, when U.S. forces in the region and the Iraqi government successfully negotiated with many local tribal leaders to split them off from the more militant insurgent groups.
The U.S. military also reported that a suspected insurgent was killed and eight captured in two raids north of Baghdad on Wednesday. Some of the suspects were believed linked to al-Qaida in Iraq and to a militant cell that has used chlorine in car bombings, the statement said.
Separate, U.S. officials announced that last week they found 3,000 gallons of nitric acid hidden in a warehouse in downtown Baghdad. U.S. forces discovered the acid, a key fertilizer component that can also be used in explosives, during a routine search Thursday, the military said.
In other violence, two brothers were killed and a policeman was hurt in a gunbattle in downtown Baqouba, 35 miles northeast of Baghdad, police said. The dead were believed to be civilians, caught in the crossfire as police fought unidentified gunmen.
Farther north, 32 mortar shells rained down on Iraqi army checkpoints in two neighborhoods of Mosul, 225 miles northwest of the capital, police said. Six soldiers, a policeman and a pedestrian were injured.
An Iraqi army officer and two soldiers were wounded at dawn in Tal Afar, 47 miles west of Mosul, when gunmen attacked their checkpoint, police said.
In the ethnically mixed city of Kirkuk, 180 miles north of Baghdad, an investigative judge at the city's criminal court was wounded in a drive-by shooting, police said. Judge Ayad Ali Asaad, a Turkoman, was with his wife and a guard, and all three were wounded.