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.
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 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
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
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
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."