Reuters & Today in Iraq – 2006-11-24 23:27:46
Sadr City Blasts Shock even War-weary Iraqis
Ross Colvin / Reuters
BAGHDAD (November 23, 2006) — A wedding car decorated with ribbons and flowers was ablaze, the bloodstained street around it littered with body parts and the smell of burnt flesh hung heavy in the air.
Minutes earlier a car bomb packed with an estimated 100 kg (200 lb) of explosives had sent jagged metal ripping through afternoon shoppers in the crowded market in the Baghdad Shi’ite slum of Sadr City that is home to more than 2 million people.
It was one of a string of bombings in the district, a stronghold of Shi’ite cleric Moqtada al Sadr, that killed 160 people and wounded 257 in the space of a few minutes and brought a country ravaged by violence ever closer to civil war.
“There were pools of blood on the street and I saw children lying dead,” said Karim al-Rubaie, a news photographer, who had been in the market to buy a sink when the car exploded.
“I went towards the site of the explosion and a second car exploded behind me, just outside Sadr’s office. Everyone was running and shouting and most of the bodies were charred. Others were torn apart,” he said.
In one devastated street, flames and thick, black smoke poured from the twisted wrecks of cars and minibuses as people pulled out bodies and fought to put out the fires.
Even for Iraqis, long used to the daily bomb and shooting attacks that terrorise neighbourhoods and have forced tens of thousands to flee their homes, it was a hellish scene.
“Maliki is a son of a dog,” Sadr City residents shouted as they angrily condemned Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki — a fellow Shi’ite whose government has struggled to stem the daily bloodshed — for his failure to protect them from such horrors.
Sadr’s hardline opposition to the U.S. occupation seemed to mean that for a long time Sadr City, a stronghold of the Mehdi Army militia which waged two uprisings against U.S. forces in 2004, largely escaped Sunni insurgent attacks.
But the bombing of a Shi’ite mosque in Samarra in February hardened the divide between Iraq’s minority Sunnis and majority Shi’ites and, amid a spate of tit-for-tat killings, the slum has witnessed major bombings in recent months.
“ALL AGAINST ALL”
The United Nations said in a report on Wednesday that Iraqi deaths were at an all-time high and that Baghdad was the epicentre of a surge of sectarian bloodletting that threatens to tear the country apart three years after U.S. troops invaded.
“What you have is anarchy, a war of all against all with no hand strong enough to win,” said Toby Dodge, an Iraq expert at the Queen Mary University of London.
Maliki’s increasingly divided national unity government, whose Kurdish, Sunni and Shi’ite leaders appealed for calm after the carnage, is chronically ineffective.
The new attacks, like the destruction of the Golden Mosque at Samarra on Feb. 22, were designed to provoke a new wave of reprisals and foster more violence, Dodge aid. “It’s clearly an attempt to get a Samarra-like backlash.”
Operation Together Forward, a major security crackdown by thousands of U.S and Iraqi troops in Baghdad launched in August, has been declared by U.S. generals to be the defining battle of the war, but violence continues to rage unabated.
DAILY WAR NEWS FOR FRIDAY NOVEMBER 24, 2006
Today in Iraq
the death toll from a string of Baghdad bombings in the past 24 hours rose to 202. In addition to the 202 fatalities, the six car bombs and a missile wounded more than 250 residents in the deadliest coordinated attack since the onset of the war in March 2003, the BBC reported.
Shiite mortar teams quickly retaliated to the Sadr City onslaught on Thursday, firing 10 shells that badly damaged the Abu Hanifa mosque in the Azamiya neighborhood and killed one person.
As funeral processions were held in Sadr City on Friday, several mortar rounds hit the Um al-Qura mosque, headquarters of Association of Muslim Scholars in west Baghdad’s Ghazaliyah neighborhood, wounding four of the guards, said police Capt. Jamil Hussein.
In Baghdad’s mostly Shiite neighborhood of Hurriyah, clashes between Shiite militiamen and Sunni insurgents armed with machine guns and rocket-propelled grenades broke out near a Sunni mosque, residents said. No casualties were immediately reported in the fighting.
Residents also reported heavy mortar fire and gunbattles in Hurriyah, a now-largely Shiite neighborhood in northwest Baghdad. There were pitched battles between gunmen and the army on Haifa Street, a dangerous thoroughfare running north from the Green Zone, site of the American and British embassies as well as the Iraqi government and parliament.
Iraqis also reported heavy fighting around the Jadriyah Bridge near Baghdad University and AP personnel saw 12 pickup trucks loaded with men armed with rocket-propelled grenade launchers and heavy machine guns driving through the center of the city.
Three mortar rounds also exploded near the Abu Hanifa mosque, Sunni Islam’s most important shrine in another area of Baghdad at 9:45 a.m. Friday, wounding one guard, said its sheik, Samir al-Obaidi. A mortar round crashed through the dome of the structure Thursday night, within hours of the Sadr City attack.
(Thursday) Two other mortar barrages on Sunni neighborhoods in west Baghdad killed nine and wounded 21, police said late Thursday.
Gunmen blew up an office of radical cleric Moqtada al-Sadr’s movement in the town of Baquba, north of Baghdad, after U.S. troops raided the building to arrest Sadr supporters inside, police said. They also reported sporadic clashes and said the situation was tense in the religiously mixed town which has been a frequent scene of sectarian violence.
It is with deep regret that the Ministry of Defence must confirm the death of a British soldier in Iraq, following a planned search and detention operation in Basra City earlier today, Friday 24 November 2006. The soldier sustained gunshot wounds during the operation and was evacuated to a nearby military hospital. Despite the best possible medical care, the soldier later died from his injuries. The soldier was a member of the Parachute Regiment, on secondment to Headquarters Multinational Division South East, Iraq.
A roadside bomb targeting a police patrol killed one policeman and wounded another in the town of Iskandariya, 40 km (25 miles) south of Baghdad, on Thursday, police said. In a separate incident gunmen attacked a police checkpoint, killing one civilian and wounding a policeman.
Three bodies with gunshot wounds were found in different parts of the northern city of Mosul on Thursday, the local hospital said.
In the Sunni bastion of Falluja, west of the capital, cleric Khaled Mohammed told worshippers: “I call on the people of Falluja to send money, food and clothes to our brothers in Sadr City and Adhamiya — we have a common enemy who attacked them to spark sectarian strife between us.”
The bomb attack in Tal Afar, 420 kilometers (260 miles) northwest of Baghdad, involved explosives hidden in a parked car and in a suicide belt worn by a pedestrian that detonated simultaneously outside a car dealership at 11 a.m., said police Brig. Khalaf al-Jubouri. He said the casualties — 22 dead, 26 wounded — were expected to rise.
Gunmen pulled a man off a bus in central Tal Afar on Thursday and shot him dead, police said.
A former soldier from the Midlands who was working as a security guard in Iraq has been killed. It is thought Gavin Emmett, 29, from Hereford, was killed in a roadside ambush in the war-torn region. He was working for Blue Hackle, a UK-based firm that specialises in operating in global trouble spots.
Wednesday’s death count included 76 bodies found dumped in four cities, 59 of them in Baghdad alone
The Iraqi police patrols found 30 bodies in Baghdad, an Interior Ministry source said on Thursday. “Our patrols found up to 30 bodies in different neighborhoods of Baghdad during the past 24 hours,” the source told Xinhua on condition of anonymity.
while in the restive city of Baquba 12 people were reported killed.
Police also recovered eight bodies near the central city of Diwaniyah
In Mosul, unidentified militants opened fire and killed a Christian political leader Wednesday evening, according to police sources Thursday. Sources told Deutsche Presse-Agentur dpa that Yashua Mageed Hedaya, the head of the independent Assyrian movement, was killed on his way out of his political party in the mostly Christian town of Qarqash, north-east of Mosul.
A police source told Kuwait News Agency (KUNA) that unknown gunmen shot and killed Colonel Yasin Abd-Ali near his house, northeast of the northern city of Mosul.
n separate incidents, anonymous gunmen killed an Iraqi policeman in Somar and another in the industrial area of Mosul, added the source.
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