The Bloodiest Day… part 2

Car bombs kill nearly 200 in deadliest Iraq attacks

From correspondents in Iraq

April 19, 2007

  • 190 killed in attacks in Shiite districts
  • ‘Swimming pool of blood’ at crowded market
  • Iraqi PM blames extremist “vampires”

FOUR car bombs detonated in a co-ordinated attack have killed more than 190 people in Baghdad in the deadliest attacks in the city since US and Iraqi forces launched a security crackdown aimed at halting the country’s slide into sectarian civil war.

One car bomb alone at a bustling market in the mainly Shiite Sadriya neighbourhood killed 140 people and wounded 150, police have said.

“The street was transformed into a swimming pool of blood,” said Ahmed Hameed, a shopkeeper near the scene.

Among the other attacks to have struck the capital, police have said a suicide car bomber killed 35 people and wounded more than 70 at a checkpoint in Sadr City, stronghold of the firebrand cleric Moqtada al-Sadr.

More were reported killed in two other attacks. All were apparently timed to coincide with each other, hours after Shiite Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki said Iraq would take security control of the whole country from foreign forces by the end of the year.

Mr Maliki blamed the attacks on infidels and Sunni extremist “vampires” and said the Iraqi Army commander responsible for the area had been detained and would be investigated over the “weakness” of his protection of civilians.

“This monstrous attack today did not distinguish between the old and young, between men and women. It targeted the population in a way that reminds us of the massacres and genocide committed by the former dictatorship,” he said.

Mr Maliki is under growing pressure to say when US troops will leave, but the attacks in mainly Shiite areas of Baghdad underscored the huge security challenges.

US Defence Secretary Robert Gates has said the US will not be shaken from its mission of pacifying sectarian tensions in Iraq and would push on with its new strategy to do so, in which 80,000 US and Iraqi troops are patrolling Iraqi streets.

“We have anticipated from the very beginning… that the insurgency and others would increase the violence to make the people of Iraq believe the plan is a failure,” he has said.

“We intend to persist to show that it is not.”

Burned alive

“I saw dozens of dead bodies. Some people were burned alive inside minibuses. Nobody could reach them after the explosion,” said a witness at Sadriya, describing scenes of mayhem at an intersection where the bomb exploded.

“There were pieces of flesh all over the place. Women were screaming and shouting for their loved ones who died,” said the witness who did not wish to be identified, adding many of the dead were women and children.

Firefighters doused nearby cars and buses, as dozens of ambulances and pick-up trucks ferried wounded to hospital and volunteers wrapped charred bodies in carpets for transport to the city’s overflowing mortuaries.

One man waving his arms in the air screamed hysterically: “Where’s Maliki? Let him come and see what is happening here.”

“Where is the security plan? We are not protected by this plan,” the bereaved shouted.

US and Iraqi forces began deploying thousands more troops onto Baghdad’s streets in February.

US military spokesman Rear Admiral Mark Fox has admitted commanders were frustrated at their inability to prevent such car bombings, but insisted Iraq was not witnessing any further escalation of sectarian violence.

Al-Qaeda is blamed for most of the major bombings targeting Shiites in Iraq and there are fears Sadr’s Mehdi Army – which numbers in the tens of thousands – may take to the streets to retaliate.

“There is no magic solution to put out the fire of sectarian sedition that some are trying to set up, especially al Qaeda,” Mr Maliki said in a speech made on his behalf before the attacks.

The Sadriya bombing was the highest death toll in a single attack in Baghdad since a truck bomb killed 135 people in the same area on February 3.

– Reuters and AFP

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