BAGHDAD- A suicide bomber triggered a ball
bearing-packed charge Sunday, killing at least 41 people at a mostly Shiite
college whose main gate was left littered with blood-soaked student notebooks
and papers amid the bodies.
Witnesses said a woman carried out the attack at the business school annex to
Mustansiriyah University, but Interior Ministry officials said it was
investigating the reports. The school's main campus was hit by a string of
bombings last month that killed 70 people.
The attack came as a powerful Shiite militia leader bitterly complained that
"car bombs continue to explode" despite an ongoing security crackdown in Baghdad
and suggested he was rethinking his cooperation.
The statement issued in the name of the radical cleric Muqtada al-Sadr put
increased strains on the U.S.-Iraqi security sweeps ！ aimed at restoring order
in the capital. The cleric said any crackdown that includes American soldiers
was doomed to failure.
Al-Sadr's Mahdi Army militia pulled its fighters off the streets under
intense government pressure to let the 12-day-old security plan proceed. But a
relentless wave of Sunni attacks ！ six alone in the Baghdad area Sunday ！ has
apparently tested al-Sadr's patience as well as many ordinary Shiites.
A return to the streets by the Mahdi Army forces could effectively block the
security effort and raise the chances of Baghdad falling into sectarian street
battles ！ the apparent aim of Sunni extremists seeking any way to destroy the
"Here we are, watching car bombs continue to explode to harvest thousands of
innocent lives from our beloved people in the middle of a security plan
controlled by an occupier," said a statement read by an al-Sadr aide in Baghdad.
Al-Sadr ！ who has not appeared in public in more than a month ！ is no friend
of Washington and his forces fought fierce battles with U.S. troops in 2004. But
he has largely cooperated in the Iraqi political process to avoid strains with
Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and the Shiite leadership.
The statement, however, was highly critical of the U.S. role in the security
plan and urged leaders to "make your own Iraqi (security) plans." He said "no
security plan will work" with direct U.S. involvement.
The statement ！ read to hundreds of cheering supporters ！ was the first
public word from the al-Sadr since U.S. assertions earlier this month that he
fled to neighboring Iran to avoid arrest. Al-Sadr's aides and other loyalists
insist he never left Iraq.
The political situation in Iraq was further thrown into question after
President Jalal Talabani, a 73-year-old Kurd, was taken to Jordan for medical
tests after feeling ill because of "continuing hard work over the past few
days," his office said.
Talabani's son, Qubad Talabani, told CNN his father was suffering from
fatigue and exhaustion. "He did not have a heart attack" or a stroke, he said.
"He's absolutely up and about, being able to communicate."
A doctor said Talabani was being treated at the heart center at King Hussein
Medical City in Amman because the facility has modern equipment, not necessarily
because the president suffers from a heart ailment.
Shiite anger at the United States is running high since American soldiers on
Friday detained the son of the most powerful Shiite political leader for nearly
12 hours after he crossed from Iran. U.S. officials claim Shiite groups,
including the Mahdi Army, receive weapons and aid from Iran. Iran denies the
"To my Shiite and Sunni brothers, I say, `Let us scorn sectarianism and hoist
the banner of unity,'" said the statement from al-Sadr, whose militia is blamed
for frequent execution-style slayings of Sunni rivals.
Since the security crackdown began, the number of bodies thought to be
victims of Shiite death squads has gone down dramatically in Baghdad, but there
has been no respite from violence blamed on Sunni insurgents.
Besides the college blast, at least 18 people were killed ！ mostly in Shiite
districts ！ in bombings and rocket attacks in the Baghdad area.
Security guards at the Mustansiriyah University annex scuffled with the
bomber before the blast, witnesses said. Most of the victims were students,
including at least 46 injured, said police
If the bomber is found to be woman it would unusual ！ but not unprecedented ！
in Iraq's chaos. The main campus at Mustansiriyah, about 1 1/2 miles away, was
the target of twin car bombs and a suicide blast last month that killed 70
The students at the business college were returning to midterm exams after
the Iraqi weekend.
A 22-year-old student, Muhanad Nasir, said he saw a commotion at the gate.
"Then there was an explosion. I did not feel anything for 15 minutes and when I
returned to consciousness, I found myself in the hospital," said Nasir, wounded
in the head and chest.
The blast flung blood-soaked notebooks and backpacks among the lifeless
bodies and wounded. Cement walls were pockmarked by the hail of ball bearings.
Parents rushed to the site and some collapsed in tears after learning their
children were killed or injured. Students used rags and towels to try to mop up
The school is located in a mostly Shiite district of northeast Baghdad, but
does not limit enrollment to that group.
In the northern city of Mosul, U.S. troops killed two gunmen in a raid and
captured a suspected local leader of the insurgent group al-Qaida in Iraq, the
military said. Additional details were no immediately available.
Iraq's Interior Ministry, meanwhile, raised the toll from a suicide truck
bombing in the violence-wracked Anbar province on Saturday to 52 dead and 74
The attack on worshippers leaving a mosque in Habbaniyah, about 50 miles west
of Baghdad, was believed linked to escalating internal Sunni battles between
insurgents and those who oppose them.
"This cowardly act of violence underscores that the terrorists are the
enemies of all Iraqis, regardless of sect," the U.S. ambassador to Iraq, Zalmay
Khalilzad, said in a statement. "They want Iraq to fail. Now is the time for the
Iraqis to come together against these terrorists."