August 30, 2006

Blasts kill more than 40 in Iraq

By Ross Colvin

BAGHDAD (Reuters) - More than 40 people were killed in bomb
attacks in Iraq on Wednesday morning, including 24 at a busy
market in Baghdad where insurgents seem intent on defying a
major U.S.-backed security clampdown now in its fourth week.

A further 35 people were wounded in the attack on the
Shorja wholesale market in central Baghdad, police said.
Attacks in recent days have shattered a relative calm this past

A bomb in the nearby Karrada district killed two people and
wounded 21 around the same time. A bomb went off near a busy
fuel station, drawing a police unit in response. Five officers
were then wounded in a second explosion, when a car detonated.

Three hours earlier, a bomb apparently left on a parked
bicycle blasted a crowd of young Iraqi men outside an army
recruiting office, killing 12 people and wounding 38.

Hilla provincial police spokesman Captain Muthanna
al-Mamuri said the bicycle appeared to have been left early in
the morning, laden with an explosive package, close to the
office in the center of Hilla, 100 km (60 miles) south of

It went off around 8 a.m. (0400 GMT), when a crowd had
gathered. It followed several days of heavy bloodshed outside
the capital, where U.S. and Iraq troops have mounted a major
security crackdown.

Recruitment centers for the Iraqi army and police, key
elements of Washington's strategy for pulling out its own
troops, have been frequent targets for insurgents from the
Sunni Arab minority, including al Qaeda Islamists, who oppose
the rise of the Shi'ite Muslim majority in U.S.-backed

The mainly Shi'ite city of Hilla, close to the site of
ancient Babylon, is surrounded by Sunni rural areas.

It has seen some of the deadliest sectarian bomb attacks
over the past two years, including the bloodiest single blast
in Iraq, when 125 people, many of them police recruits, were
killed by a suicide car bomber in February 2005.

Despite the danger, young men continue to queue up at
police and army recruitment centers, desperate for employment.

A large group of men responding to a newspaper advert for
army recruits rioted outside the governor's office in Samawa,
270 km (168 miles) south of Baghdad, after being told to come
back at the weekend, a witness said.

The witness said the police initially fired warning shots
and then shot into the crowd after they began throwing rocks at
the building, killing one man and wounding five. Three
policemen were also injured in the riot.


U.S. and Iraqi officials say the security crackdown in
Baghdad is having an effect, with the murder rate down by half
this month over last, when dozens of people a day were being
killed in the capital alone, pitching Iraq closer to civil war.

Despite the crackdown, violence has continued in many parts
of the capital and around Iraq. A roadside bomb hit a civilian
car on a road near Buhriz, north of Baghdad, killing three
women, a child and a man, all members of the same family.

The national unity government of Shi'ite Prime Minister
Nuri al-Maliki still faces a major task in building up its
security forces to take over from some 150,000 mainly American

A suicide car bomber killed 13 police outside the Interior
Ministry building in Baghdad on Monday.

Underlining the range of threats to stability, Shi'ite
militiamen and Iraqi troops fought an intense battle in
Diwaniya 180 km (110 miles) south of Baghdad on Monday, leaving
at least 30 people dead by official accounts, and possibly
dozens more.

Iraq's economy is crippled by the violence, causing among
other things an acute shortage of fuel in a country with the
world's third largest reserves of crude oil.

Scavengers were caught by an explosion at a ruptured
gasoline pipeline near Diwaniya late on Monday. At least 29
were killed, hospital officials said, but the death toll could
be more than twice that, they added, because more than 30
people had been reported as missing.

(Additional reporting by Sami al-Jumaili in Kerbala and
Mussab Al-Khairalla and Alastair Macdonald in Baghdad)