Sectarian attacks shake Baghdad

8 youths die, dozens are hurt in shelling of soccer field in Shiite Sadr City neighborhood

November 09, 2006|By Borzou Daragahi | Borzou Daragahi,LOS ANGELES TIMES

BAGHDAD -- Explosive shells rained down on a dusty soccer field in the Shiite Muslim slum of Sadr City yesterday, killing eight Iraqi youths and injuring dozens amid an ominous wave of such attacks between sectarian districts of the capital.

Bombings and shootings around the country during the day left dozens of other Iraqis dead. The U.S. military also reported that two more Americans had been killed.

Mortar and rocket battles reminiscent of the urban civil warfare that engulfed Sarajevo, Beirut and Kabul in previous decades have erupted occasionally throughout Baghdad's religiously mixed patchwork of neighborhoods.

The latest fighting in northern and eastern Baghdad began Sunday, with sporadic fire between adjacent districts.

The attack on the soccer field, carried out with rockets or mortar shells, occurred about 4:30 p.m. as young men and boys in the poor neighborhood gathered to play.

The explosives carved deep craters into the surface and scattered shrapnel, human flesh and pieces of clothing in the area. The injured and dying were rushed to area hospitals.

Exchanges of mortar fire between Shiite and Sunni neighborhoods during the day left three other people dead and five injured in the northern district of Kadhamiya and one dead and 20 injured in the neighboring Adhamiya district.

The Kadhamiya, on the mostly Sunni side of the capital west of the Tigris River, is the site of a golden-domed shrine that is among the most revered by Shiites. Adhamiya, a heavily Sunni neighborhood on the opposite bank of the Tigris, has a famous Sunni shrine.

A suicide bombing of a cafe the night before in the nearby Shiite neighborhood of Grayat killed 21 people and injured 25, officials said. That bombing followed a mortar attack that killed seven in adjacent Adhamiya.

Iraq's Shiite-led government, apparently discounting that the attacks were between Shiite and Sunni neighborhoods, blamed the outbreak of shelling on Sunni insurgents firing at the capital from the city of Taji, 15 miles north of the capital.

"Baathists and [religious extremists] are launching mortars from Taji onto Adhamiya and Kadhamiya," said a statement. The Russian-made mortars used by Iraqi insurgents generally have a maximum range of five miles.

Explosions shook the capital throughout much of yesterday. A car bomb in the upscale mostly Sunni neighborhood of Waziria killed one and injured six. Another car bomb explosion targeting a passing Iraqi police commando patrol in east Baghdad killed one Iraqi police officer and injured four.

Mortars struck the downtown Shorja wholesale market, killing two people and injuring eight. Another mortar struck near the Ministry of Health building, killing three and injuring six.

At least 29 bodies were found, many bound, beaten and shot, scattered around Baghdad in apparent sectarian reprisal killings.

Outside the capital, violence raged on. A car bomb in a crowded market near a town outside of Muqdadiya killed four people and injured six. The town is in the volatile, religiously mixed agricultural province of Diyala, northeast of the capital.

The Americans were killed in two incidents. A Marine assigned to serve with the U.S. Army's 1st Armored Division died yesterday of wounds sustained "due to enemy action" in Anbar province, the military said.

A soldier attached to the 25th Infantry Division was killed Tuesday in combat near the northern city of Kirkuk. Three soldiers were also wounded during the operation, the military said.

Meanwhile, the trial of former dictator Saddam Hussein on human rights charges resumed yesterday with witness testimony and a defense allegation that the prosecution had broken into their offices and stolen files.

The judge dismissed the theft accusation. The case was adjourned until Nov. 27.

Borzou Daragahi writes for the Los Angeles Times.

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