Bomb kills at least 30 at Iraqi market

250 killed over past 4 days in politically driven attacks

September 18, 2005|By Borzou Daragahi | Borzou Daragahi,LOS ANGELES TIMES

BAGHDAD, Iraq - A car bomb exploded near an outdoor market in a poor, dusty Shiite village east of Baghdad yesterday, killing at least 30 Iraqis and wounding 48 as a new spate of sectarian bloodshed continued for a fourth day.

Iraqi authorities said the deaths were among at least 40 reported throughout the country. The four-day death toll from politically motivated violence rose to at least 250.

Police said the bomb blast in the Nahrawan district, a bleak agricultural region of dirt roads, mud-brick homes and impoverished Shiite farmers about 20 miles from Baghdad, was caused by a car parked near a public market that exploded about 6:30 p.m. as residents gathered to buy food and mingle.

The explosion destroyed cars and damaged shops. Police said that 30 minutes after the initial blast, insurgents fired mortar rounds into the area, sowing panic and chaos as police attempted to seal off the area and care for victims.

Victims were rushed to hospitals in eastern Baghdad.

"They're getting many casualties," said a receptionist at Baghdad's Kindi Hospital, where some of the victims were taken. "All our staff is trying to save people."

Sunni Arab insurgents from Iraq and abroad have launched a campaign of car bombings and assassinations against U.S.-led forces and the nation's Shiite majority, apparently hoping to provoke a civil war that will radicalize Sunnis in Iraq and the region.

The latest onslaught began after U.S. soldiers and forces of the Shiite-led government completed a counterinsurgency operation in the northern city of Tal Afar, which had allegedly become a base for foreign fighters and Iraqi militants.

Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, who claims to lead al-Qaida's Iraq branch, declared war on Shiites for their actions in Tal Afar, which some Iraqi critics decried as "sectarian cleansing" against the city's Sunnis.

Defense Minister Saddoun Dulaymi, a Sunni, visited Tal Afar dignitaries, who "assured him that they understood the importance of the rule of law and rejected extremism and sectarianism," a government statement said.

Low-scale violence between Sunnis and Shiites has continued for months. Yesterday, police also discovered the bodies of nine men in various Baghdad neighborhoods. The bodies showed signs of torture and had bullet wounds to the head.

In the ethnically and religiously mixed city of Baqouba, 40 miles north of the capital, another car bomb targeting a convoy of Iraqi military vehicles killed one civilian and injured 17, witnesses and officials said.

Despite the pounding they've taken from insurgents, Shiites have mostly been reluctant to take revenge. But yesterday police reported that armed Shiite members of the Tamimi tribe near the town of Taji, 15 miles north of Baghdad, had taken up arms and blocked the country's main north-south highway, stopping cars and ordering drivers to return home. A group of gunmen who tried to storm the main Taji police station were repulsed with no casualties reported, an Interior Ministry official said.

Seventeen Shiite members of the tribe were killed by gunmen who pulled them from their homes and shot them execution-style early Wednesday morning. Terrified of reprisal attacks by Shiites, members of a nearby Sunni tribe also had taken up arms, an official said.

A witness reached by telephone attributed the increased tension to young Shiite men who blocked the road without the consent of tribal elders and said that U.S. tanks and Iraqi police had moved into the area by mid-afternoon.

In the northern city of Mosul, coalition forces said they arrested two alleged leaders of al-Qaida in Iraq. The men - identified as Taha Ibrahim Yasin Becher, whose alias was Abu Fatima, and Hamed Saeed Ismael Mustafa, also known as Abu Shahed - allegedly headed the group's organization in Iraq's third-largest city. A statement said that they were arrested Sept. 5 and that Abu Fatima took over as al-Qaida's top-ranking operative in Mosul after one of his predecessors was captured in June and another killed in August. He held the post for only 12 days, the statement said.

The Los Angeles Times is a Tribune Publishing newspaper. The Associated Press contributed to this article.

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