Series of Baghdad Car Bombs Kills at Least 32

Monday, 06 April 2009 11:16 By Anthony Shadid, The Washington Post | name.

Series of Baghdad Car Bombs Kills at Least 32
A crowd gathers near the site of a deadly car bomb in Baghdad. (Photo: AP)

    Baghdad - A series of six car bombs struck markets, a police convoy and a gaggle of workers in Shiite Muslim neighborhoods Monday, killing 32 people and wounding more than 120 in one of the most violent days in the capital in months.

    The toll rivaled a bombing last month at the police academy in a fortified part of Baghdad, when an assailant plowed into a crowd and killed 28 people. But the breadth and coordination of Monday's attacks, from one end of the capital to the other, were reminiscent of the violence from Baghdad's bloodiest days in 2006 and 2007.

    The strikes called into question statements by Iraqi military officials that insurgents had lost their ability to attack in the heart of the capital with ease and reflected a sense by many in Baghdad and elsewhere that violence may be worsening, as the American military begins a withdrawal of combat troops slated to end by August 2010.

    In each attack, explosives were packed in a car that was parked near its target, then detonated remotely. Interior Ministry officials said none of the attacks appeared to be carried out by suicide bombers, which generally has been a tactic of insurgent groups in the past. Interior ministry officials stopped short of blaming anyone for the series of strikes.

    In one of the deadliest bombings, a car bomb exploded near a market in Sadr City, once a stronghold of a militia loyal to Moqtada al-Sadr, a Shiite cleric. Residents said the assailant tried to jump the median with his vehicle, then parked the car. Ten minutes later, the explosive detonated, slicing through crowds of women who were shopping for vegetables with their children in tow.

    A minibus ignited, killing most of the passengers inside, residents said. The Interior Ministry said 10 people were killed and at least 65 were wounded. Vegetables spilled across the pavement, which was smeared with blood.

    The air was suffused with the stench of sewage that was pooled in the street, mixing with runoff from the water used to extinguish the fires.

    "They're simply poor people. Why would this happen to them?" asked Abu Abbas Raad, as he stared at a piece of cardboard that he said was used to scoop up a child's brain. Others gathered, pointing at pools of blood that were drawing flies.

    As with a bombing last month in Shaab, another Shiite neighborhood, residents expressed anger at Iraqi forces for failing to protect them. Some complained the security forces arrived too late. Others said that when the Iraqi security did arrive, they shot in the air, wounding one of the survivors. Many of the police, they said, simply stood in the street, laughing and smoking.

    "Where were they when the bomb went off?" asked Abu Hassan Mohammed.

    Some residents called for the return of the Mahdi Army, Sadr's militia, which has been largely subdued by government forces in offensives in Baghdad and the southern city of Basra.

    "We need the Mahdi Army to come back and secure the area," insisted Ali Hamid. A crowd gathered around him, nodding in agreement.

    "When the Mahdi Army was here, they took care of the traffic, they searched cars, they brought food to families, they delivered aid to houses in the neighborhood, and they did it all for nothing in return. They were our brothers," Mohammed said.

    The bombings began at about 7 a.m., when a car detonated near a cinema in the Shiite neighborhood of Alawi, where day laborers gathered. At least four were killed and 15 wounded, Interior Ministry officials said. Three more bombings followed - the attack in Sadr City, a bombing in New Baghdad that targeted the convoy of a police general and killed two people, and another attack near a market in Husainiya that killed four people.

    Hours later, two more car bombs followed near a market in a Shiite neighborhood in southwestern Baghdad, killing at least 12 people and wounding 25, officials said.

    The bombings shattered a semblance of the ordinary that had returned to Baghdad in past months. By comparison, Interior Ministry officials said, six car bombs had detonated in the capital in January, four in February and just three in March.

    "The car bombs we see in an entire month are less than used to be detonated in a day," Abdul-Karim Khalaf, an Interior Ministry spokesman, boasted last week.

    The U.S. military also announced Monday that an American soldier was killed in action Sunday in Diyala province, still one of Iraq's most restive regions. It was the first combat death suffered by U.S. forces in Iraq since March 16.


    Special correspondent Qais Mizher contributed to this report.

Last modified on Monday, 06 April 2009 12:03