Bombing in Iraq Kills Mostly Children

Falah Jabbar, his wife and their 4-day-old daughter arrive at a hospital in eastern Baghdad after they were wounded in a suicide bombing.
Falah Jabbar, his wife and their 4-day-old daughter arrive at a hospital in eastern Baghdad after they were wounded in a suicide bombing. (By Khalid Mohammed -- Associated Press)
By Andy Mosher and Khalid Alsaffar
Washington Post Foreign Service
Thursday, July 14, 2005

BAGHDAD, July 13 -- Inside the morgue at Kindi Hospital lay the remains of Amjad Kudeer. Flying shrapnel from a suicide car bomb struck him in the head and chest Wednesday, killing him instantly. He was 13.

Outside the door to the refrigerated room, Amjad's sobbing mother called his name over and over, as if trying to summon him back to life. Then she looked up and asked: "What did he do to deserve this? They are killing children. Why? Why?"

Amjad and more than a dozen other children from east Baghdad's al-Khalij neighborhood made up the majority of the 27 people killed when a suicide bomber drove into a crowd that had gathered around U.S. soldiers who were handing out candy and small toys, police said. The attack also killed one soldier, according to the U.S. military, and wounded at least 50 people.

In north Baghdad, meanwhile, 11 Sunni Muslim men were found dead hours after being arrested by Iraqi police, according to the head of the government agency that administers Sunni religious affairs.

The suicide bombing occurred at 10:50 a.m. in al-Khalij, a mostly Shiite Muslim district adjacent to a U.S. military base in the Iraqi army's former Rashid Barracks. Two Army Humvees had parked in the street, and their crews blocked off a small area with razor wire and began giving gifts to children who immediately swarmed around them. A speeding Suzuki sedan plowed into their midst and exploded, turning a festive scene into one of carnage, witnesses said.

"The kids were laughing and playing with the solders when the suicide bomber drove his car bomb very fast into the crowd and blew himself up, killing all the kids who were around the soldiers, and some cleaners who were there," said Ali Hussein, a police officer.

The attack was grimly reminiscent of one last September, when several bombs detonated at a ceremony celebrating the opening of a sewage plant, killing 35 children who were accepting candy from American soldiers. In addition, it was the second suicide bombing in Baghdad in four days to kill more than 20 people. On Sunday, a man wearing an explosive belt blew himself up at the entrance to a military recruiting center, killing at least 21 people.

Iraqi security forces and foreign troops have been frequent targets during the nearly two-year-old insurgency in Iraq. But Hussein, who was shot in the right leg last week in an attack that killed another officer, said targeting children was beyond comprehension. "I do not know how anyone in the world -- whether they believe or do not believe in God -- could do something like kill a kid," he said. The attackers "are after us and the American forces, and we understand that because we are after them, too. But how could they hurt those innocent kids?"

A U.S. military spokesman, Maj. Russ Goemaere, said in a statement that "the terrorist undoubtedly saw the children around the Humvee as he attacked. The complete disregard for civilian life in this attack is absolutely abhorrent."

The car bombing also destroyed two houses, killing several people inside. Ahmad Kareem, 17, said he had been in one of the houses with six members of his family when the bomber struck.

"I was sitting in the living room, and there were some U.S. soldiers and Hummers outside. The kids gathered around the solders," Ahmad said afterward, a bandage around his head and his shirt covered with blood. "All of a sudden I heard a big boom, and my head started bleeding. The house became dark, as if the night had come back again, and black smoke was the only thing I could see."

Ahmad said he was the only one in the house who had been able to come home from the hospital. "Thank God, no one died, but my oldest sister is in critical condition," he said.

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