Car bombing kills at least 80 in Iraq

Updated: 2007-02-12 19:05

BAGHDAD, Iraq - Thunderous explosions and dense black smoke swirled through the center of Baghdad Monday when at least two car bombs - one parked in an underground garage - tore through a crowded marketplace, setting off dozens of secondary explosions and killing at least 71 people, police said. Another bombing nearby killed at least nine.

A man wounded in a car bomb attack walks to al-Kindi hospital in Baghdad February 12, 2007. A car bomb attack at a market in central Baghdad on Monday killed 31 people and wounded 77, police said. REUTERS
A man wounded in a car bomb attack walks to al-Kindi hospital in Baghdad February 12, 2007.  [Reuters]

The blasts shattered the city center on the first anniversary, according to the Muslim lunar calendar, of the bombing of the important Shiite Golden Dome shrine in Samarra. That attack by al-Qaida in Iraq militants set off the torrent of sectarian bloodletting that has turned Baghdad and much of central Iraq into a battleground.

A column of smoke hundreds of feet wide billowed a thousand feet into the air above the market near the east bank of the Tigris River and near the Central Bank building.

Ambulances and pickup trucks rushed many of the wounded to nearby al-Kindi hospital in the largely Shiite region that has been hit by a series of deadly bombings since the first of the year.

The worst carnage occurred about 12:25 p.m. shortly after the Iraqi government called for a 15-minute period of commemoration for the bombing of the golden domed shrine in Samarra a year ago.

The blast obliterated the shops and stalls in a central building in the Shorja market district and billowing smoke blackened the entire area. Police said at least 71 people were killed.

Debris and clothing mannequins were scattered in thick pools of blood on the floor of the warehouse-type building while men tossed plastic chairs onto piles. Two men carried the limp body of one of the victims, while small fires burned in the rubble on the street outside the building.

A shop owner whose business was set on fire said one of the cars was parked in a garage under a two-story market called Al-Arabi, next to the Iraqi central bank. Mohammed Najaim said flames were coming out of the garage, which holds hundreds of cars.

About half an hour earlier, a bomb hidden in a bag exploded in a crowded area near a popular takeaway falafel restaurant in the Bab al-Sharqi area, not far from Shorja, police said, adding that at least nine people were killed and 19 wounded in that blast.

The attacks, which occurred in busy market districts on the east side of the Tigris River, also came despite stepped up security in the capital as U.S. and Iraqi forces have launched a new operation aimed at stopping the sectarian violence that has been on the rise since the Feb. 22 bombing of the mosque in Samarra.

Some storekeepers were trying to salvage merchandise while others were taking their money in small bags. Police and soldiers were deployed in force, and armed men in civilian clothes were searching and questioning people coming to the scene.

Elsewhere in Baghdad, some roads and bridges in Baghdad were cordoned off after Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki called for a 15-minute sit-in to commemorate the bombing of the al-Askariya or Golden Dome shrine in Samarra, 60 miles north of Baghdad.

"The explosion of the holy shrine pushed the country into blind violence, in which tens of thousands of innocents were killed," Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, Iraq's top Shiite cleric, said in a statement issued Monday before the bombings. "No one knows by Allah when this tragedy will be over."


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