Saturday, February 03, 2007

Truck bombing slaughters 121, wounds 215 in Baghdad market

A suicide bomber has blown up his truck near a central Baghdad market, killing at least 121 people as shoppers were buying household items ahead of the night-time curfew.

Another 215 people were wounded in the gruesome attack in Baghdad's Al-Sadriya district, security and medical sources said Saturday.

The bombing was the worst attack this year and the second biggest after the Sadr City car bombings last November which killed more than 200 people.

"A suicide truck bomb exploded near the Sadriya market, in central Baghdad on the east bank of the Tigris River. At least 102 people were killed and 215 wounded," a security source told AFP.

The blast sent a long plume of thick grey smoke into the overcast sky just before dusk, when markets are usually crowded with shoppers out for food ahead of the night-time curfew between 9:00 pm (1800 GMT) and 6:00 am (0300 GMT).

A twin car bomb attack on January 22 near the capital's Haraj market killed 88 people, and on Thursday, 73 people were killed in a twin suicide bombing in the mainly Shiite town of Hilla, south of Baghdad.

The campaign of massive bombings in recent weeks is posing a major challenge to Iraqi and US authorities as they fine-tune a make-or-break security plan to stabilize the violent capital.

The Sadriya bomb came just hours after insurgents unleashed a series of other car bombs and shootings across the strife-torn country.

The northern oil hub of Kirkuk bore the brunt of those attacks, with seven car bombs rocking the ethnically mixed city that is claimed by both Kurds and Arabs.

In one Kirkuk attack, a suicide bomber exploded a car outside the office of the Kurdistan Democratic Party led by powerful Kurdish leader Massud Barzani, killing two people.

The attack wounded another 17 people, mainly women and children, and many more were reported wounded in the other six car bombings.

Two of the seven car bombs exploded near two schools in the city but did not cause serious casualties because it was the weekend.

After the attacks police imposed a curfew on Kirkuk from 4:00 pm (1300 GMT) on Saturday to 6:00 am (0300 GMT) on Sunday.

Authorities also had to slap a curfew on two other Iraqi cities, Mosul and Samarra, following outbreaks of violence there as well, police said.

In Samarra, gunmen attacked a police checkpoint just north of the city killing six commandos and wounding six more, local police told AFP.

After the attack, police using loudhailers announced an indefinite curfew on Samarra, an AFP correspondent reported.

The predominantly Sunni town, 125 kilometres (80 miles) north of Baghdad, was the site of a February 22 2006 attack on a revered Shiite shrine.

The attack on the Al-Askari shrine triggered sectarian bloodshed nationwide in which tens of thousands of people have been killed, mainly in Baghdad.

In Mosul, 370 kilometres (230 miles) north of Baghdad, clashes between insurgents and security forces were reported from various districts on Saturday.

Although no casualties were reported immediately, Iraq's third largest city after Baghdad and Basra in the south was also put under curfew, police Colonel Mohammed Jassim said.

Elsewhere three more people were killed in other attacks.

The US military announced the deaths of two more soldiers in different incidents, taking its losses in Iraq since the March 2003 invasion to 3,091, according to an AFP count based on Pentagon figures.

Four more members of a Shiite messianic cult which fought a fierce battle with security forces earlier this week were arrested in the central Iraqi shrine city of Karbala, police said.

Karbala police chief Major General Mohammed Abu al-Walid said 25 militants were arrested across the city in a series of raids. Four of those detained were from the "Soldiers of Heaven" group, the militant Shiite cult.

At least 263 of the cult's fighters and their leader were killed and 502 arrested during fierce clashes with Iraqi forces near Najaf on Sunday.


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