Scores of Iraqis dead in coordinated attacks

Car bombs rip Baghdad intersection

roadside explosive kills 3 U.S. soldiers

December 27, 2006|By Alexandra Zavis | Alexandra Zavis,Los Angeles Times

BAGHDAD, Iraq -- Three car bombs exploded within minutes at a west Baghdad intersection jammed with holiday shoppers, one of a series of attacks reported yesterday that killed at least 97 Iraqis and injured scores.

Three U.S. soldiers died when a roadside bomb exploded as they were removing explosive devices from a route northwest of the capital, the military said. The deaths brought the number of members of the U.S. military killed since the start of the Iraq war in March 2003 to at least 2,978 -- five more than were killed in the Sept. 11 attacks in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania.

Yesterday's bombings took place in a commercial district full of shops. They overturned fruit stalls, set cars on fire and sent smoke billowing into the sky. At least 26 people were killed and 54 injured, police said.

Witnesses said the area was full of shoppers preparing for the Eid Athar holiday, which takes place over the New Year's period.

Aqeel Abdul Hadi, a 45-year-old real estate broker, had just stepped out of his car to view a house for sale when the first car bomb exploded behind him.

"We turned and we saw traffic policemen wounded and running from the explosion scene. I froze on the spot," he said. "People rushed to evacuate the wounded. Minutes later the second car bomb went off [among] the gathering people, killing, burning and wounding them."

The attack occurred in a religiously mixed area where Shiite militiamen have been chasing out Sunni residents, part of a cycle of sectarian violence tearing at the city. Militiamen from the Mahdi Army, loyal to radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, have set up checkpoints at the intersection, residents said.

In the afternoon, a car bomb exploded in a predominantly Sunni neighborhood in west Baghdad, killing 20 people and wounding 35, police said. The vehicle was parked in a lot behind food outlets near Abu Hanifa, Baghdad's largest Sunni mosque.

On Monday, police found the bodies of 41 unidentified men around Baghdad. Another body was found with a single bullet to the head in Kut, 100 miles southeast of the capital, police said.

Four roadside bombs exploded in an attack on a police patrol in east Baghdad, killing the officer in charge and injuring nine people, the Interior Ministry said.

Another bomb tore through the used-clothing section of Baghdad's central Bab Al Sharji market, killing five people and injuring 15. The device was hidden in a pile of garbage, police said.

Police said at least two other people were killed in Baghdad, a senior border security official killed by gunmen on his way to work, and a civilian killed in an exchange of fire between U.S. forces and the Mahdi Army.

Alexandra Zavis writes for the Los Angeles Times.

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