BAGHDAD - A car bomb exploded
Saturday in the Shiite holy city of Karbala as the streets were packed with
people heading for evening prayers, killing at least 58 and wounding scores near
some of the country's most sacred shrines. Separately, the US military announced
the deaths of nine American troops, including three killed Saturday in a single
roadside bombing outside Baghdad.
An injured man is carried away following an explosion in a
crowded commercial area near the Imam Hussein shrine in Karbala, 80
kilometers (50 miles) south of Baghdad, Saturday, April 28, 2007.
black smoke clogging the skies above Karbala, angry crowds hurled stones at
police and later stormed the provincial governor's house, accusing authorities
of failing to protect them from the unrelenting bombings usually blamed on Sunni
insurgents. It was the second car bomb to strike the city's central area in two
Near the blast site, survivors frantically searched for missing relatives.
Iraqi television showed one man carrying the charred body of a small girl above
his head as he ran down the street while ambulances rushed to retrieve the
wounded and firefighters sprayed water at fires in the wreckage, leaving pools
of bloody water.
The Americans killed in Iraq included five who died in fighting Friday in
Anbar province, three killed when a roadside bomb struck their patrol southeast
of Baghdad and one killed in a separate roadside bombing south of the capital.
The deaths raised to 99 the number of members of the US military who have
died this month and at least 3,346 who have died since the Iraq war started in
March 2003, according to an Associated Press count.
The blast took place about 7 p.m. in a crowded commercial area near the
shrines of Imam Abbas and Imam Hussein, major Shiite saints.
Security officials said the car packed with explosives was parked near a
cement barrier intended to keep traffic away from the shrines, which draw
thousands of Shiite pilgrims from Iran and other countries.
That suggested the attack, which occurred two weeks after 47 people were
killed and 224 were wounded in a car bombing in the same area on April 14, was
aimed at killing as many Shiite worshippers as possible.
Salim Kazim, the head of the health department in Karbala, 50 miles south of
Baghdad, said 58 people were killed and 168 wounded. The figures were confirmed
by Abdul-Al al-Yassiri, the head of Karbala's provincial council.
"I did not expect this explosion because I thought the place was well
protected by the police," said Qassim Hassan, a clothing merchant who was
injured by the blast. "I demand a trial for the people in charge of the security
Hassan, who spoke to a reporter from his hospital bed, said his brother and a
cousin were still missing.
"I regret that I voted for those traitors who only care about their posts,
not the people who voted for them," he said.
The US military has warned that such bombings were intended to provoke
retaliatory violence by Shiite militias, whose members have largely complied
with political pressure to avoid confrontations with Americans during the US
The radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr launched a strong attack earlier
Saturday on President Bush, calling him the "greatest evil" for refusing to
withdraw American troops from Iraq.
Al-Sadr's statement was read during a parliament session by his cousin, Liqaa
al-Yassin, after Congress ordered US troops to begin leaving Iraq by Oct. 1.
Bush pledged to veto the measure and neither the House nor the Senate had enough
votes to override him.
"Here are the Democrats calling you to withdraw or even set a timetable and
you are not responding," al-Sadr's statement said. "It is not only them who are
calling for this but also Republicans, to whom you belong."
"If you are ignoring your friends and partners, then it is no wonder that you
ignore the international and Iraqi points of view," he added.
Al-Sadr led two armed uprisings against US forces in 2004, and his Mahdi
militia is believed responsible for much of Iraq's sectarian killing. The US
military says he has fled to Iran, although his followers insist he is hiding in
Iraq. Abdul-Al al-Yassiri, the head of the Karbala provincial council, said
local authorities had raised fears that militants fleeing the Baghdad security
crackdown were infiltrating their area.
"We have contacted the interior minister and asked them to supply us with
equipment that can detect explosives," he said.
Ali Mohammed, 31, who sells prayer beads in the area, said he heard the blast
and felt himself hurled into the air.
"The next thing I knew I opened my eyes in the hospital with my legs and
chest burned," he said. "This is a disaster. What is the guilt of the children
and women killed today by this terrorist attack?"
Crowds stormed the provincial government offices and the governor's house,
burning part of it along with three cars and scuffling with guards. Security
forces detained several armed protesters, said Ghalib al-Daami, a provincial
Saturday's bombing was the deadliest attack in Iraq since April 18, when 127
people were killed in a car bombing near the Sadriyah market in Baghdad -
one of four bombings that killed a total of 183 people in the bloodiest day
since a US-Iraq security operation began in the capital more than 10 weeks ago.
In all, at least 119 people were killed or found dead, including the bodies
of 38 people killed execution-style ¡ª apparent victims of the so-called
sectarian death squads mostly run by Shiite militias.
In Baghdad, a mortar attack killed two people and wounded seven in the Sunni
neighborhood of Azamiyah, where the US military recently announced it was
building a three-mile long, 12-foot high concrete wall despite protests from
residents and Sunni politicians that they were being isolated.
The US military also said Saturday that a suicide truck bomber attacked the
home of a city police chief the day before in the Sunni insurgent stronghold of
Anbar province, killing nine Iraqi security forces and six civilians. Police
chief Hamid Ibrahim al-Numrawi and his family escaped injury after Iraqi forces
opened fire on the truck before it reached the concrete barrier outside the home
in Hit, 85 miles west of Baghdad.