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Bombing at Abu Ghraib market kills 33

The suicide attack in the Baghdad suburb comes as tribal leaders give Iraqi Interior Ministry officials a tour to demonstrate the safety of the area.

March 11, 2009|Raheem Salman and Saif Hameed

BAGHDAD — A suicide bomber killed 33 people and wounded 46 on Tuesday when he attacked a group of Shiite and Sunni tribesmen and security officers touring a local market in Baghdad's western suburb of Abu Ghraib, local officials and police said.

Tribal leaders had met with a delegation from the Interior Ministry at Abu Ghraib's municipal building and then escorted them on a tour to show how safe the district was, according to Nameer Hamdani, a member of the area's district council.

"One of those who claimed that they are mujahedin [Islamic warriors] . . . targeted the delegation while they were having a tour in the public market," Hamdani said.

The explosion occurred away from the visiting security officials and instead killed and injured several journalists and police officers trailing the delegation, Hamdani said. Shooting erupted after the blast between insurgents and security forces, he added.

The blast killed a reporter and cameraman from the private Baghdadiya satellite channel, and a cameraman from the state-run Al Iraqiya channel was wounded, police said. A police lieutenant colonel was also killed.

No breakdown was given of the number of police and civilian casualties.

Abu Ghraib was a haven for Islamic militant groups after the fall of Saddam Hussein's regime. It is also notorious as the site of a prison dreaded by Iraqis under Hussein's control and later under the U.S. military after American troops were found to have beaten and psychologically tortured prisoners there.

The area began to change in 2007 after some insurgents decided to rebel against the militant group Al Qaeda in Iraq. Since then, the district has gradually become quiet. Sectarian tensions continued to buffet it as army units and Shiite leaders tried to drive out the former insurgents, now called the Sons of Iraq, until last fall, when the Iraqi government stopped trying to arrest the ex-militants.

The situation had improved enough that Sunni and Shiite tribal leaders were willing to walk the streets Tuesday with Interior Ministry officials.

"I think Qaeda is behind this," said Abu Azzam, a Sunni leader from Abu Ghraib. "They want to implement foreign agendas here and to shake the stability."

The bombing followed a similar attack Sunday when a suicide bomber on a motorcycle killed 33 people waiting to enter the Interior Ministry compound in Baghdad for a police recruitment drive.

An increase in car and suicide bombings this month could indicate an assertion of strength by militant groups since the White House announced its intentions to withdraw all U.S. combat troops from Iraq by August 2010.

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Times staff writer Ned Parker in Kurdistan contributed to this report.

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