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Iraqi blast kills 120, injures 300 after truck ruse

A bomber sets off a ton of explosives at a market in a Baghdad Shiite area.

Published February 4, 2007


BAGHDAD - The truck laden with cooking oil, canned goods and flour sacks was stopped at a checkpoint at the market entrance. The driver pleaded with guards to let him drive on to deliver the backbreaking load. It appeared an innocent delivery and was waved through.

Moments later, the suicide driver detonated a ton of explosives and killed at least 121 people and wounded more than 300, Iraqi officials said, in one of the most gruesome attacks in the capital since the U.S. invasion of Iraq nearly four years ago.

"We don't allow big trucks in the market, but the driver convinced us that he had food to deliver for a shop," said Kamil Ibrahim, 36, a vegetable vendor at the entrance to the Sadriyah market.

Ibrahim was wounded in his head, chest and abdomen, and said two of his workers, 18 and 19 years old, were killed instantly. The shopkeeper spoke from a bed in al-Kindi Hospital.

It was the fifth major bombing in less than a month to hit predominantly Shiite districts in Baghdad and one city to the south. The blast leveled 30 shops and 40 houses, witnesses said.

The bombing was the deadliest attack in the capital since Nov. 23, when suspected al-Qaida in Iraq fighters hit the Sadr City Shiite slum with a series of car bombs and mortars that killed at least 215 people.

Elsewhere, the U.S. military on Saturday reported the deaths of five more soldiers - four in fighting and one of a likely heart attack. All died Friday.

The Iraqi Health Ministry said more than 300 people were injured, many seriously, in Saturday's explosion, which sent a huge column of smoke into the Baghdad sky on the east bank of the Tigris River. The nearby al-Kindi hospital - quickly overwhelmed - began turning away the wounded and directing ambulances to hospitals in Sadr City.

Emergency workers and civilians wheeled scores of bloodied and badly mangled victims into the hospitals. Doctors and paramedics were in a frantic triage to save the lives of the most seriously wounded.

The attack came in the evening, when the Sadriyah market was crowded with after-work shoppers stocking up for dinner.

The truck's deadly payload included land mines, ammunition, rockets, mortars and other explosives, which erupted in a fireball and sent buildings crashing down on top of merchants and customers, said Maj. Gen. Jihad Jabiri of Iraq's Interior Ministry.

U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad called the bombing "horrific" and said it was "an example of what the forces of evil will do to intimidate the Iraqi people... To those who commit these heinous crimes, we send this message: You will be relentlessly hunted until you are apprehended and brought to justice."

The bombing hit at a particularly inopportune time for the Bush administration's latest attempt to crush violence in the capital and just days before American and Iraqi forces were expected to start an all-out assault on Sunni and Shiite militants.

Only a day earlier, 16 American intelligence agencies made public a National Intelligence Estimate that said conditions in Baghdad were perilous.

"Unless efforts to reverse these conditions show measurable progress... in the coming 12 to 18 months, we assess that the overall security situation will continue to deteriorate," a declassified synopsis of the report said.

Suspicion on Saturday immediately fell on Sunni insurgents - al-Qaida in Iraq and allied groups in particular. The bombers are believed to have stepped up their campaign against Shiites in the final days before the joint U.S.-Iraqi crackdown in Baghdad and the suburbs for which President Bush has dispatched 21,500 additional troops.

The White House called the bombing an atrocity. "Free nations of the world must not stand by while terrorists commit mass murder in an attempt to derail democratic progress in Iraq and throughout the greater Middle East," it said.

Violence shattered the normally quiet northern city of Kirkuk as well. Eight bombs exploded within two hours, killing two people and destroying four homes. There was no claim of responsibility.

Further signs of unrest in the north appeared in Mosul, where insurgents fought prolonged gunbattles with Iraqi police and soldiers, forcing authorities in the country's third-largest city to impose a temporary ban on vehicles and a curfew. Police said five insurgents were killed.

Iraqi authorities said that 145 people died or were found dead Saturday, including those killed in the market bombing.

Information from the Los Angles Times was use in this report.

Fast Facts:


Recent bombings targeting Shiites

Feb. 3: Suicide truck bomb strikes central Baghdad market of Sadriyah, killing at least 121 people

Feb. 1: Two suicide bombers blow themselves up in outdoor market in Hillah, south of Baghdad, killing 73

Jan. 22: Suicide car bomb crashes into central Baghdad market of Bab al-Sharqi, killing 88

Jan. 16: Twin car bombs hit students at Mustansiriyah University, killing 70

[Last modified February 4, 2007, 00:33:40]

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