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THE CONFLICT IN IRAQ: BOMBINGS IN BAGHDAD; ANOTHER
DEATH SENTENCE

Scores killed in blasts at 2 Baghdad marketplaces

Nearly 90 die and 185 are hurt amid the stalls run and frequented mostly by Shiites.

February 13, 2007|Borzou Daragahi and Said Rifai | Times Staff Writers

BAGHDAD — Within the dense warren of shops and storefronts of the Shorja market, ordinary life drummed along Monday morning. Security guard Abdul-Ameer Mohammed stood at his post in front of a bank. Nail Ahmed, owner of a porcelain pottery store in the market, took a break and shopped for spices for his wife. Maytham Qazzaz, a plastics and nylon merchant, worked the phones.

Then the explosions erupted, yet another in a series of attacks on crowded Baghdad marketplaces. Ordinary life became engulfed in fire, twisted metal, collapsed buildings, shattered glass, black smoke and blood. At least 78 Iraqis were killed in the attack and 166 injured. They were among the victims of sectarian violence that left more than 100 dead Monday in the capital alone.

"Every day we pray before going to work because Shorja has become a repeated target," said Ahmed, the pottery store owner, recovering from injuries to his back and head at the capital's Medical City Hospital. "But what can we do? We have to work to put food on the table for our families."

Iraqi officials said the blasts were caused by two car bombs and one improvised explosive hidden inside a basement. Minutes earlier, an explosion caused by a suicide bomber wearing an explosives-packed belt ripped through a crowd at the nearby Bab al Sharji marketplace, killing at least nine people and injuring 19. The attacks coincided with the Islamic lunar calendar anniversary of last year's bombing of a Shiite Muslim shrine complex in Samarra that intensified the country's slide into sectarian civil war.

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Sectarian implications

Monday's attacks also were laden with sectarian implications. The vast majority of the shoppers, sellers, truckers and young, unskilled laborers lugging goods among the crowds at the Shorja and Bab al Sharji markets are Shiites. Such near-simultaneous bombings of marketplaces are trademarks of Sunni Arab insurgents.

Monday's market explosions shook the city for miles, filled hospitals and choked traffic throughout the capital.

Mohammed, the security guard, said the blast sent the bank's steel doors hurtling toward him. "I heard many loud, indistinguishable noises before I fainted," he said, sitting on a sidewalk and nursing a wound to his head.

Witnesses, victims and rescuers described horrific scenes of carnage, with the injured and dead trapped beneath rubble and inside burned cars.

"We saw bodies and human remains scattered all over the place," said Jalil Abdul-Latif, an ambulance driver who spent the afternoon ferrying victims from the Shorja market to Medical City Hospital. "We dragged the bodies and the injured victims from inside cars and out of collapsed buildings."

Worst hit was a sprawling six-story complex at the heart of the Shorja market filled with stalls selling clothes, cooking utensils, farming equipment and more.

An enormous fire on the third floor raged for hours. Firefighters frantically attempted to extinguish the flames.

Many of the dead were trapped inside collapsed buildings. Qazzaz, the plastics store owner, said he and his employees struggled to get the injured to hospitals but were hampered by bridge closings and roadblocks. Ahmed was dismayed to learn that his 17-year-old employee, Saif, had been crushed to death inside his ruined porcelain shop.

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More bodies found

In other violence, authorities found the bodies of at least 30 Iraqis around the capital. Mortar shells struck southeast and southwest Baghdad neighborhoods, killing at least eight Iraqis and injuring 25.

A roadside bomb targeting a police patrol struck a civilian motor vehicle in Baghdad, killing two passengers.

A U.S. soldier died Sunday in a noncombat incident somewhere in Iraq, a news release said. The death brought to 3,126 the number of U.S. troops killed in the Iraq war, according to icasualties.org, a website that tracks casualties in the conflict.

U.S. and Iraqi forces in Buhriz, a Sunni insurgent stronghold about 35 miles northeast of the capital, arrested police Maj. Khaled Saber Shammari, the head of the local force. He was accused of helping militants. U.S. and Iraqi forces have arrested 27 men during an aggressive sweep of the town, backed by American air support.

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daragahi@latimes.com

Special correspondents in Baghdad and Baqubah contributed to this report.

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