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Archive for Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Market bombing adds 25 to day’s death toll

May 23, 2007

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— A car bomb ripped through a crowded market in a Shiite-dominated neighborhood Tuesday, killing 25 people and injuring 60, in another blow to U.S. and Iraqi efforts to quash sectarian bloodshed in the Iraqi capital.

An Iraqi child stands next to the ruins of a car after a deadly blast in the Shiite-dominated neighborhood of Amil in Baghdad. A parked car bomb ripped through a packed outdoor market Tuesday in southwestern Baghdad, killing 25 people and injuring 60 others, despite a 3-month-old security crackdown meant to reduce violence in the capital.

An Iraqi child stands next to the ruins of a car after a deadly blast in the Shiite-dominated neighborhood of Amil in Baghdad. A parked car bomb ripped through a packed outdoor market Tuesday in southwestern Baghdad, killing 25 people and injuring 60 others, despite a 3-month-old security crackdown meant to reduce violence in the capital.

The victims were among 75 people reported slain Tuesday, including 33 unidentified bodies recovered in Baghdad who were apparent victims of sectarian death squads.

The high toll underscored the challenges facing Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki a year after he took office promising to unite Iraqis across ethnic and religious divides, even as pressure mounts in the United States for a speedy exit of American troops from the conflict.

"Our fight against terror is open and long," al-Maliki said in an anniversary address broadcast on state television. "No one believes this battle will end today or tomorrow."

Thousands of additional U.S. and Iraqi troops have deployed in the capital since mid-February in an attempt to clear out militants and provide breathing room for Iraq's leaders to resolve their political divisions.

The crackdown was accompanied by an initial drop in execution-style slayings after radical cleric Muqtada al-Sadr ordered his followers off the streets.

But the spectacular bombings that are the signature of Sunni Arab insurgents have persisted, prompting an apparent resurgence of militia activity in some areas - including Amil, scene of Tuesday's deadly market attack.

Residents said militiamen were once again forcing Sunni residents out of the southwestern neighborhood. And 13 of the bullet-riddled bodies recovered Tuesday were found there, police said.

Ahmed, a Sunni car mechanic too afraid to give his last name, was at home when the nearby explosion rocked the neighborhood.

"I went to the roof and saw the huge fire and smoke," he said. "Now gunmen are taking away any strangers showing up in the neighborhood to interrogate them."

Witnesses said the bomber concealed his explosives in a truck carrying food items and detonated them when he was stopped at a checkpoint. But police said the device was planted in a parked car.

Amir Sabh rushed to his store to check out the damage. He was lucky: Just a few windows were smashed. But the blast crumbled at least four nearby buildings and flattened the car in which a friend of his was driving.

"There was no trace of him," he said. The man's wife was hysterical, searching over and over for any remains around the vehicle, which Sabh said looked like a "crushed can."

"A Dracula horror movie couldn't be scarier," he said.

Elsewhere in Baghdad, four students were killed and 25 other people were injured when mortar rounds slammed into a teacher training college in a Sunni neighborhood.

A couple and their four children, the youngest a 1-year-old, were killed by gunmen in army uniforms at what police said was a fake security checkpoint near Baqubah, a strife-torn city 35 miles northeast of the capital, police said.

Also Tuesday, Iraqi legislators missed a deadline to propose constitutional revisions promised to the embittered Sunni Arab minority driving the insurgency against al-Maliki's Shiite-dominated government and U.S.-led forces in Iraq.

A multiparty committee had been expected to submit a report Tuesday after six months of deliberations. But members were unable to reach agreement on key issues, including the allocation of revenue among various regions and the future of contested areas such as the oil-rich city of Kirkuk, said Sunni lawmaker Rasheed Azzawi.

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