Car bomb kills 25 at Baghdad market

Deaths of 50 others reported around Iraq

May 23, 2007|By Alexandra Zavis | Alexandra Zavis,LOS ANGELES TIMES

Baghdad -- A car bomb ripped through a crowded market in a Shiite-dominated neighborhood yesterday, killing 25 people, injuring 60 and dealing another blow to U.S. and Iraqi efforts to quash sectarian bloodshed in the Iraqi capital.

The victims were among 75 people reported killed yesterday, including 33 apparent victims of sectarian death squads whose unidentified bodies were recovered in Baghdad.

Iraqi legislators, meanwhile, missed a deadline to propose constitutional revisions promised to the embittered Sunni Arab minority leading the insurgency against Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's Shiite-dominated government and U.S.-led forces in Iraq.

A multiparty committee had been expected to submit a report yesterday after six months of deliberations. But members were unable to reach agreement on key issues, including the allocation of revenue between regions and the future of contested areas such as the oil-rich city of Kirkuk, Sunni lawmaker Rasheed Azzawi said. Members decided to refer the issues to their leaders for further discussion, he said.

Action on constitutional reforms is one of the benchmarks U.S. officials have made continued support contingent upon.

The high toll in yesterday's market bombing underscored the challenges facing al-Maliki a year after he took office promising to unite Iraqis across ethnic and religious divides, amid growing pressure in the United States for a speedy withdrawal of U.S. troops.

"Our fight against terror is open and long," al-Maliki said in an anniversary address shown on state television. "No one believes this battle will end today or tomorrow."

Thousands of additional U.S. and Iraqi troops have been deployed in the capital since mid-February in an attempt to clear out militants and provide breathing room for Iraq's leaders to resolve political divisions.

The crackdown was initially accompanied by a drop in execution-style killings, which are often blamed on Shiite Muslim militias, after radical cleric Muqtada al-Sadr ordered his followers off the streets.

But the spectacular bombings that are the signature of Sunni Arab insurgents have persisted, prompting an apparent resurgence of militia activity in some areas, including the Amil neighborhood in southwestern Baghdad, the scene of yesterday's deadly market attack.

Residents said militiamen are again forcing Sunni residents out of Amil, and 13 of the bullet-riddled bodies recovered in Baghdad yesterday were found there, police said.

Ahmed, a Sunni car mechanic who said he was afraid to give his last name, was at home when the explosion in the nearby market rocked the neighborhood.

"I went to the roof and saw the huge fire and smoke," he said. "Now gunmen are taking away any strangers showing up in the neighborhood to interrogate them."

Witnesses said the bomber concealed his explosives in a truck carrying food items and detonated them when he was stopped at a checkpoint. Police said the device was planted in a parked car.

Amir Sabh rushed to his store to find that only a few windows had been smashed, but the blast crumbled at least four nearby buildings and flattened the car that a friend of Sabh's was driving.

"There was no trace of him," Sabh said.

The victim's wife was hysterical, searching over and over for any remains around the vehicle, which Sabh said looked like a "crushed can."

"A Dracula horror movie couldn't be scarier," he said.

Elsewhere in Baghdad, four students were killed and 25 other people were injured when mortar rounds slammed into a teacher training college in a Sunni neighborhood.

A couple and their four children, the youngest 1 year old, were killed by gunmen in army uniforms at what police said was a fake security checkpoint nearby Baqubah, a strife-torn city 35 miles northeast of the capital, police said.

Alexandra Zavis writes for the Los Angeles Times.

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