Men assist a bomb blast victim in Baghdad February 3, 2007. A
suicide bomber killed 121 people on Saturday in the deadliest single bomb
blast in Baghdad since the 2003 war, when he drove a truck packed with one
tonne of explosives into a busy market in a mainly Shi'ite area.
BAGHDAD, Iraq - A suicide bomber driving a truck loaded with a ton of
explosives hidden beneath cooking oil, canned food and bags of flour obliterated
a Baghdad food market, killing at least 121 people in one of the most fearsome
attacks in the capital since the US invasion in 2003.
The explosion Saturday was the fifth major bombing in less than a month
targeting predominantly Shiite districts in Baghdad and a provincial city to the
south. This one leveled about 30 shops and 40 houses, witnesses said.
The Health Ministry said more than 300 people were injured in the thunderous
explosion that sent a column of smoke into the sky on the east bank of the
Tigris River. The nearby al-Kindi hospital _ quickly overwhelmed _ began turning
away the wounded and directing ambulances to hospitals in the Shiite Sadr City
US Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad said the bombing was "an example of what the
forces of evil will do to intimidate the Iraqi people."
The bombing came just days before American and Iraqi forces were expected to
start an all-out assault on Sunni and Shiite gunmen and bombers in the capital.
Only a day earlier, 16 American intelligence agencies made public a National
Intelligence Estimate that said conditions in Baghdad were perilous.
"Unless efforts to reverse these conditions show measurable progress ... in
the coming 12 to 18 months, we assess that the overall security situation will
continue to deteriorate," a declassified synopsis of the report declared.
Emergency workers and civilians wheeled scores of bloodied and mangled
victims into the hospitals with intravenous drips already in their arms. Doctors
and paramedics were in a frantic triage to save the lives of the most seriously
"We don't allow big trucks in the market, but the driver convinced us that he
had food to deliver for a shop. Once he got inside, he detonated the bomb," said
Kamil Ibrahim, a 36-year-old vegetable vendor at the entrance to the market
Ibrahim _ wounded in his head, chest and abdomen _ said two of his workers,
young men 18 and 19 years old, were killed instantly.
The shopkeeper spoke from a bed in al-Kindi Hospital, where he was rushed in
a private car after rescuers wheeled him out of the market on a wooden cart.
Suspicion immediately fell on Sunni insurgents _ al-Qaida in Iraq and allied
groups in particular. The militant bombers are believed to have stepped up their
campaign against Shiites in the final days before the joint US-Iraqi crackdown
in Baghdad. Many saw the operation as a last-chance effort to clamp off violence
that has turned the capital into a sectarian battleground.
Suspected Sunni attackers have appeared emboldened in recent weeks after
radical anti-American Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, under pressure from fellow
Shiites who dominate the government, ordered the thousands of gunmen in his
Mahdi Army militia to avoid American attacks in the coming assault.
In the hours after the explosion, Shiite and Sunni mortar teams traded fire
across the darkened city. Two people were killed and 20 wounded in one
predominantly Sunni district.
The White House called the bombing an atrocity and said, "Free nations of the
world must not stand by while terrorists commit mass murder in an attempt to
derail democratic progress in Iraq and throughout the greater Middle East."
Violence shattered the northern city of Kirkuk as well. Eight bombs exploded
within two hours, the opening blast a suicide car bomber apparently targeting
the offices of the Kurdish Democratic Party of Massoud Barzani, leader of Iraq's
autonomous Kurdish region.
Two people were killed in that blast and four nearby homes destroyed. There
was no claim of responsibility for the series of bombings in the oil-rich city
where Arabs, Kurds and Turkomen all claim ascendance.
Sunni insurgents were seen as likely suspects, however, as many of them have
fled to the north of the country in a bid to escape the crackdown in the
Further signs the insurgents were migrating north appeared in Mosul, where
insurgent forces fought Iraqi police and soldiers. Police said five insurgents
were killed. Police spokesman Brig. Abdul Karim al-Jubouri said fighters
abandoned their attack when Iraqi security forces moved in backed by US air
In the Baghdad blast, Maj. Gen. Jihad al-Jabiri of the Iraqi Interior
Ministry said one ton of explosives ripped through the Sadriyah market.
"There are still bodies under the rubble," he said. In an outburst of
frustration and anger he called for the government to "deport (non-Iraqi) Arabs
The general's comments reflected growing displeasure inside the government of
Shiite Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki with neighboring Syria, which Baghdad
charges has done too little to close its border to Sunni militants.
In his second heated verbal attack on Damascus in two days, government
spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh said "50 percent of terrorism enters Iraq from Syria,
and we have evidence" to prove that.
"The Interior Ministry and the Ministry of State for National Security gave
them (the Syrians) evidence about those who are conspiring and are sending car
bombs. We gave them the numbers of their apartments and the buildings where they
live," al-Dabbagh said on Al-Arabiya satellite television.
The Sadriyah market sits on a side street lined with shops and vendors
selling produce, meat and other staples. The market is about 500 meters from a
The blast was the deadliest attack in the capital since November 23, when
suspected al-Qaida in Iraq fighters hit Sadr City with a series of car bombs and
mortars that killed at least 215 people.
Not far from the Sadriyah marketplace, a suicide bomber crashed his car into
the Bab al-Sharqi market 12 days ago and killed 88 people.
South of Baghdad, a pair of suicide bombers detonated explosives Thursday
among shoppers in a crowded outdoor market in the Shiite city of Hillah, killing
at least 73 people and wounding 163.
An Iraqi militant group tied to al-Qaida in Iraq announced, meanwhile, it had
launched its own new strategy to counter the coming US-Iraqi crackdown.
In an audiotape posted on a Web site commonly used by the insurgents, a voice
purported to be that of Abu Abdullah Rashid al-Baghdadi, also known as Abu Omar
al-Baghdadi, the head of The Mujahedeen Shura Council, said the group would
"widen the circle of battles" beyond Baghdad.
The US military reported the deaths of five more soldiers _ four in fighting
and one of an apparent heart attack. All died Friday.
Iraqi authorities said that 145 people were killed or were found dead
Saturday, including those killed in the market bombing. Of the total, 19 were
found dumped in the capital, most of the bodies showing signs of torture.