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Fresh Attacks Add to Misery in Baghdad

Explosions kill 33 in two Shiite areas of the torrid city, which is short of electricity and running water. A leading Sunni moderate is also slain.

June 23, 2005|Patrick J. McDonnell | Times Staff Writer

BAGHDAD — A series of explosions shook two Shiite Muslim neighborhoods of this beleaguered capital late Wednesday and early today, killing at least 33 people and injuring more than 95.

The carnage began Wednesday evening when three apparently coordinated car bombs ripped through the Shula district in northwest Baghdad within a few minutes of one another, targeting thoroughfares where pedestrians were enjoying the night air after a sweltering day. Those blasts killed at least 18 people and injured 46, an Interior Ministry official said.

The second set of blasts -- two car bombs and a roadside explosive device -- shook the Karrada In neighborhood shortly after 7 a.m. today, killing at least 15 people, including three policemen, and injuring 50 others, an Iraqi official said. The explosions targeted a gas station, a Shiite mosque and a nearby public bathhouse.

The strikes in Baghdad underscored the insurgents' resolve despite declarations by U.S. and Iraqi authorities that a crackdown known as Operation Lightning had dealt a severe blow to the guerrillas in the capital, with more than 1,200 suspects taken into custody. The two sets of bombings were among the most extensive and coordinated in Baghdad in recent months.

In other violence, a car bomb targeted a U.S. military convoy near the heavily fortified Green Zone in central Baghdad on Wednesday, the Interior Ministry official said speaking on condition of anonymity.

And a running gun battle between insurgents and U.S. forces broke out in the western district of Amariya, a guerrilla stronghold.

There was no word on U.S. casualties in the clashes, but at least two civilians were killed and eight injured when a roadside bomb exploded near the site of the shooting, the Interior Ministry official said.

Earlier in the day, a former judge who favored Sunni Arab participation in Iraqi politics was assassinated.

The killing of Jassim Issawi, a law professor at Baghdad University, was the latest in a series of attacks targeting moderate Sunnis who defy the insurgency and back the fragile political process here.

Issawi was gunned down in his car in Shula along with his 18-year-old son, Mohammed, said Mohammed Daini, a member of the National Dialogue Council, a Sunni group that supports participation in the government.

It was not immediately clear who was behind the slaying.

Issawi was being considered for membership on the parliamentary committee drafting a national constitution. The parliament, which is dominated by Shiites and Kurds, has been seeking to expand Sunni representation. The charter is scheduled to be ready by mid-August and put to a public referendum in October.

Issawi's slaying "is one of a series of incidents meant to stoke sectarian sedition," Daini said. "There are many parties who would wish to arouse tension.... We denounce this cowardly act."

Throughout Baghdad, meanwhile, residents were buying up bottled water and siphoning from functioning water lines as hundreds of thousands of people remained without running water for the third day, adding to the general misery in a torrid city where electrical blackouts, gasoline lines, car bombs and gun battles are part of everyday life.

"We stopped cleaning our house, and we go to my father-in-law's for a shower," said Korkis Yaqu Korkis, a 39-year-old father of three. "My neighbor had to buy bottled water to put in his air cooler."

U.S. and Iraqi officials said water service should begin to improve today.

Meanwhile, the U.S. military reported that three soldiers were killed Tuesday by small-arms fire in two incidents near Ramadi, an insurgent bastion about 60 miles west of the capital.

Their deaths brought to at least 1,727 the number of U.S. military personnel killed since U.S.-led forces invaded Iraq in March 2003, according to Associated Press.

Elsewhere in Iraq, AP reported that at least four people were killed in separate attacks, including two policemen who died when a roadside bomb struck an Iraqi convoy southeast of Baghdad. A 9-year-old boy was killed and two children were injured when a group of youngsters on bicycles ran over a bomb planted in the ground northeast of the capital, the news service reported.

And in the Philippines, officials in the Philippines announced the release of Roberto Tarongoy, a Filipino accountant who had been taken hostage Nov. 1. Tarongoy was kidnapped along with Roy Hallums, a U.S. citizen, from their Baghdad office after a gun battle.

There was no word on Hallums' fate.

Times staff writer Shamil Aziz and special correspondent Asmaa Waguih contributed to this report.

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