Iraqis mourning the victims of triple bombing in Amarah

Death toll is lowered to 28

injury count grows to at least 180

December 14, 2007|By Alexandra Zavis | Alexandra Zavis,LOS ANGELES TIMES

BAGHDAD -- The wails of mourners reverberated yesterday across the Shiite Muslim city of Amarah, still reeling from three car bombs that ripped through its main market the previous day.

The provincial Health Department lowered the death toll from 41 to 28, citing confusion in the immediate aftermath of the first major bombing to hit the southern city during the Iraq war. At the same time, the estimate of the number of injured grew to at least 180, said Dr. Zamil Shiya, who heads the department.

Wednesday's apparently synchronized blasts, the bloodiest in months, were a sharp reminder that insurgents remain a potent force in Iraq, despite the 60 percent decline in attacks reported since U.S. forces completed a buildup of 28,500 additional troops in June.

Yesterday, four people were killed and 12 wounded in a coordinated bombing in the mostly Kurdish city of Khanaqin, about 90 miles northeast of Baghdad near the Iranian border. Police said the initial explosion was minor and caused no casualties. But as onlookers gathered, a second blast ripped through the crowd.

The police command in Diyala province, where Khanaqin is located, also reported the discovery of 16 bodies the previous day in a mass grave near Muqdadiya. Twelve of the bodies were beheaded, and four had gunshot wounds to the head, said Maj. Raad Hadithy, adding that the victims appeared to have been killed recently. The U.S. military could not immediately confirm the incident and said it could be a false report.

Diyala remains one of Iraq's most violent provinces.

In Baghdad, a car bomb exploded yesterday about 200 yards from the Italian Embassy, killing one Iraqi and injuring six others, including three policemen, authorities said. It was not immediately clear whether the embassy was the intended target.

The blasts in Amarah shattered the confidence of the relatively calm city, which remained under a dusk-to-dawn curfew yesterday.

The top U.S. commander in Iraq, Gen. David Petraeus, and U.S. Ambassador Ryan C. Crocker condemned the attack in a statement and pledged to work with Iraqi authorities bring those responsible to justice. The British military, based in nearby Basra, dispatched blankets, sheets, wheelchairs and medical supplies to Amarah to help cope with the casualties.

Funeral tents were erected in front of homes across the city to receive mourners.

Kadim Jawad's three sons gathered beneath one such tent to grieve for the retired civil servant, who left home early Wednesday to buy bread for the family breakfast and never came back.

"Before this, we only saw such things on television," Ali Jawad said. "God protect us from what may happen next."

Local officials blamed the Sunni Arab militant group al-Qaida in Iraq, which rarely has penetrated the overwhelmingly Shiite south.

Iraqi police and soldiers set up checkpoints yesterday across Amarah, provoking heated exchanges with some residents who accused them of failing to protect them from the previous day's carnage.

"Now you want to inspect my car, after all those people have already been slaughtered?" one taxi driver complained to the policeman who pulled him over to search his trunk.

"Why do you think I'm standing here?" the policeman retorted. "We are here to protect you."

Alexandra Zavis writes for the Los Angeles Times.

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