Baghdad Car bombings on Sunday killed at least 60 people and wounded more than 250 in a campaign of bloodshed that has threatened to plunge Iraq into open civil war.
Each explosion left behind scores of charred bodies and seemed designed to stoke the tit-for-tat sectarian violence that has killed hundreds of Iraqis, mostly in and around the capital, during the past two weeks.
The killings have come despite a highly touted Baghdad security plan that includes about 42,500 Iraqi army and police troops and at least 7,200 U.S. soldiers (one American officer said last week that the number was closer to 8,000).
The fighting has been fiercer than many military planners initially expected. From June 13 to July 19, at least 92 Iraqi army soldiers and police were killed and 444 more were wounded during fighting in Baghdad, according to the U.S. military.
¢ With his trial on charges of mass murder about to resume, Saddam Hussein collapsed in his jail cell Sunday, more than two weeks into a hunger strike that had left him gaunt and physically deteriorated. After Saddam's collapse, the defense team pledged to boycott the remainder of the trial due to resume today in what some believe was a last-ditch effort to undermine the legitimacy of the war crimes tribunal. But prosecutors pledged that the trial would resume with or without Saddam and his lawyers. Saddam was being treated by American medical personnel following his collapse. A U.S. military spokesman said Saddam was voluntarily being fed through a tube and his condition was not life-threatening. ¢ Though embroiled in a bloody war over the future shape and identity of their country, Iraq's Sunni Arabs, Shiites, Kurds and even Christians have unified in condemning Israel in the face of its fight in Lebanon with the Hezbollah militia. Condemnation of Israel's actions in Lebanon and the U.S. as Israel's backer have emerged as rare bridge issues, cutting across political, ethnic and religious lines.
American Army officials have said they intend to bolster the number of U.S. soldiers in Baghdad by bringing in soldiers on standby in Kuwait and shuffling some units already in Iraq.
Meanwhile, Iraqi officials held formal and informal meetings in Baghdad in hopes of finding a solution to the fighting. "The committees are working day and night to make it work out," said parliament speaker Mahmoud al-Mashhadani. "We are racing against time."
The first two bombs Sunday hit the Shiite Muslim stronghold of Sadr City in Baghdad. The neighborhood is home to thousands of members of one of the nation's main Shiite militias, the Mahdi Army, which has been accused by Sunni Muslims of carrying out death squad operations targeting Sunni neighborhoods.
Around 8:30 in the morning, a suicide bomber in a Kia minivan detonated a bomb in a crowded market on the edge of the neighborhood, killing at least 35 Iraqis and wounding some 75 more.
Abu Mohammed, who asked that his full name not be used, said he was at the market just moments after the explosion and "flesh was everywhere - in the market, on the left side of the road and on the right side of the road."
"The scene was like judgment day," said Abu Mohammed, a construction worker. "The injured people were screaming for help ... there was blood-soaked clothing scattered all around. I helped the injured into ambulances, but I had to take breaks ... before helping to load more people."
Less than three hours later, a homemade bomb exploded near the municipality building in central Sadr City, killing eight and wounding 20.
At 12:30 p.m. another bomb detonated, this time in the fractious northern city of Kirkuk, where Kurds and Arabs are in a political and armed fight for control of the surrounding province and its oil fields.
The car bomb ripped through a crowd in front of Kirkuk's main court building, killing at least 20 and injuring more than 159, according to a general with the Iraqi army brigade there. Hospitals in the city were forced to ask citizens to donate blood.