Archive for Thursday, August 18, 2005

Coordinated terror attacks shake Baghdad; dozens dead

Violence hits as Sunni group denounces work on constitution

August 18, 2005

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— Three car bombs exploded Wednesday near a crowded bus station and a nearby hospital where survivors were being taken, killing up to 43 people in the deadliest suicide attack in Baghdad in weeks. Rescuers used bolt cutters to free some victims hurled into barbed wire fences by the blast.

The attacks may have been timed to coincide with talks on Iraq's constitution, which resumed Wednesday after leaders failed to meet a deadline two days ago. Iraq's main Sunni Arab party denounced the deliberations, raising doubts the document can win Sunni support and lure disaffected Sunni Arabs from the insurgency.

Police said the first bomb blew up at the Nadha bus terminal, the city's largest, shortly before 8 a.m. as swarms of travelers were boarding buses. As Iraqi police rushed to the scene, a suicide driver detonated his vehicle in the station's parking lot.

Another suicide bomber blew up his car a half hour later across the street from nearby Kindi Hospital, to which ambulances were transporting the injured.


Iraqi soldiers and police officers secure the area around one of the two massive car bombs that exploded at a bus station in Baghdad, Iraq. Two car bombs driven by suicide attackers exploded Wednesday morning at the al-Nahda bus station in central Baghdad. Another bomb exploded a short time later at a hospital where many of the wounded were taken.

Iraqi soldiers and police officers secure the area around one of the two massive car bombs that exploded at a bus station in Baghdad, Iraq. Two car bombs driven by suicide attackers exploded Wednesday morning at the al-Nahda bus station in central Baghdad. Another bomb exploded a short time later at a hospital where many of the wounded were taken.

Police Capt. Nabil Abdul-Qader said 43 people were killed and 85 were wounded in the attacks. The U.S. military put the casualty toll at 38 dead and 68 injured.

Terrified survivors - many weeping and screaming - scrambled about the smoking, charred hulks of buses and cars looking for signs of relatives. Several weeping men hugged inside the open-air terminal. One man searched through the charred buses for signs of his brother and cousin.

Several of the dead near Kindi Hospital were hurled into barbed wire security fences, and rescuers had to use bolt cutters to free the bodies.

"We want our voices to be heard by the president of the republic and every official to tackle such violence," shouted one dazed security guard who refused to give his name. "All those who were killed are innocent people. There were no American nor Iraqi troops on the scene."

Four suspects were detained at the bus station on suspicion of involvement in the bombings, the Transportation Ministry said.

Constitution problems

The latest attacks occurred shortly before the leaders of Iraq's political factions met to try to finish the constitution by the new deadline next Monday. If no agreement can be reached this time, the interim constitution requires that the parliament be dissolved and that a new transitional assembly and government be elected in December.

Some Shiite officials spoke of progress in the Wednesday talks.

However, the largest Sunni group, the Iraqi Islamic Party, issued a blistering attack on the drafting committee, accusing it of bias and incompetence. The party, which has members on the committee, said major differences remain on the same issues that blocked a deal last week.

U.S. death toll

As of Wednesday, at least 1,860 members of the U.S. military have died since the beginning of the Iraq war in March 2003, according to an Associated Press count. At least 1,440 died as a result of hostile action, according to the military's numbers. The figures include five military civilians.

They included federalism, the role of the Shiite clergy and the distribution of Iraq's vast oil wealth. The Sunni party also insisted that the new constitution affirm the country's Arab and Islamic identity and demanded that Islam be declared a main source in legislation - a measure opposed by Kurds and women's activists.

"The battle of the constitution is not over yet," the Sunni party said. "Our people should be awake and cautious and the popular will should arise to put pressure for a free Iraqi national draft constitution that preserves the sovereignty and unity of its people."

That raises serious questions whether the new constitution, if it can be completed in time, will achieve a major U.S. objective of luring disaffected Sunni Arabs away from the Sunni-dominated insurgency.

Once the draft is approved by parliament, it will be submitted to the voters in a referendum Oct. 15. If two-thirds of the voters in three of the 18 provinces reject the constitution, it will be defeated. Sunnis form the majority in at least four provinces.

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