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Car bomb takes 58 lives at Shiite holy site

In all, 119 people die or turn up dead in the country, and the U.S. says nine troops died.

Published April 29, 2007


BAGHDAD - A car bomb exploded Saturday in the Shiite holy city of Karbala as the streets were packed with people heading for evening prayers, killing at least 58 and wounding scores near some of the country's most sacred shrines.

Separately, the U.S. military announced the deaths of nine American troops. Five died in fighting Friday in Anbar province, three were killed Saturday when a roadside bomb struck their patrol southeast of Baghdad and one was killed in a separate roadside bombing south of the capital.

The deaths raised to 99 the number of members of the U.S. military who have died this month.

Saturday's bombing in Karbala was the deadliest attack in Iraq since April 18, when 127 people were killed in a car bombing near the Sadriyah market in Baghdad - one of four bombings that killed a total of 183 people in the bloodiest day since a U.S.-Iraq security operation began in the capital more than 10 weeks ago.

In all, at least 119 people were killed or found dead Saturday, including the bodies of 38 people killed execution-style - apparent victims of the so-called sectarian death squads mostly run by Shiite militias.

Angry crowds in Karbala hurled stones at police and later stormed the provincial governor's house, accusing authorities of failing to protect them from the unrelenting bombings usually blamed on Sunni insurgents. It was the second car bomb to strike the city's central area in two weeks.

Near the blast site, survivors frantically searched for missing relatives. Iraqi television showed one man carrying the charred body of a small girl above his head as he ran down the street while ambulances rushed to retrieve the wounded and firefighters sprayed water at fires in the wreckage, leaving pools of bloody water.

The blast took place about 7 p.m. in a crowded commercial area near the shrines of Imam Abbas and Imam Hussein, major Shiite saints.

Security officials said the car packed with explosives was parked near a cement barrier intended to keep traffic away from the shrines, which draw thousands of Shiite pilgrims from Iran and other countries.

That suggested the attack, which occurred two weeks after 47 people were killed and 224 were wounded in a car bombing in the same area on April 14, was aimed at killing as many Shiite worshipers as possible.

Salim Kazim, the head of the health department in Karbala, 50 miles south of Baghdad, said 58 people were killed and 168 wounded. The figures were confirmed by Abdul-Al al-Yassiri, the head of Karbala's provincial council.

The U.S. military has warned that such bombings were intended to provoke retaliatory violence by Shiite militias, whose members have largely complied with political pressure to avoid confrontations with Americans during the U.S. troop buildup.

The radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr launched a strong attack earlier Saturday on President Bush, calling him the "greatest evil" for refusing to withdraw American troops from Iraq.

Sadr led two armed uprisings against U.S. forces in 2004, and his Mahdi militia is believed responsible for much of Iraq's sectarian killing.

The U.S. military also said Saturday that a suicide truck bomber attacked the home of a city police chief the day before in the Sunni insurgent stronghold of Anbar province, killing nine Iraqi security forces and six civilians. Police chief Hamid Ibrahim al-Numrawi and his family escaped injury after Iraqi forces opened fire on the truck before it reached the concrete barrier outside the home in Hit, 85 miles west of Baghdad.

Also Saturday, hundreds of people brought unlit candles and flowers to Saddam Hussein's tomb in Ouja to mark what would have been his 70th birthday. Hussein was hanged on Dec. 30 for crimes against humanity.

"We came with candles but won't light them because the candle of Iraq, President Saddam Hussein, has gone as a martyr, " said Fatin Abdul Qadir, the director of a children's charity in nearby Tikrit. "We will light them when Iraq is liberated again."

[Last modified April 29, 2007, 01:29:30]

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