At Least 42 Killed in Violence Across Iraq

Iraqis carry the coffin of one of six people killed when U.S. and Iraqi forces clashed outside a mosque in Baghdad's Sadr City slum with gunmen loyal to the Shiite Muslim cleric Moqtada Sadr.
Iraqis carry the coffin of one of six people killed when U.S. and Iraqi forces clashed outside a mosque in Baghdad's Sadr City slum with gunmen loyal to the Shiite Muslim cleric Moqtada Sadr. (Photos By Karim Kadim -- Associated Press)

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By Bassam Sebti and Jackie Spinner
Washington Post Foreign Service
Monday, September 26, 2005

BAGHDAD, Sept. 26 -- A suicide bomber driving a minibus pulled alongside a convoy of elite Iraqi commandos in the capital Sunday and detonated his explosives, killing 10 people in a spray of burning metal, witnesses said.

The powerful explosion rattled windows miles from the stretch of highway in the eastern neighborhood of Ghadeer. Blood from the dead and injured soaked bread in roadside stalls.

Hours later, Ahmed Dawood, 25, a trader who was driving on the highway at the time and witnessed the explosion, was still shuffling around in shock, carefully stepping over sandals and pieces of flesh.

"The highway was so crowded," said Dawood, dazed but uninjured. "When the explosion happened, I searched for a place to hide because there was heavy shooting."

Iraqi officials provided no immediate count of the casualties. Witnesses said they saw at least 10 charred bodies, the majority of whom were commandos, part of a highly trained Interior Ministry protection force. Unlike U.S. forces in Iraq, who travel in armored vehicles, the commandos were riding in the back of a pickup truck.

[On Monday, a suicide bomber rammed his car into a bus carrying Oil Ministry employees outside the ministry office, killing at least six people and wounded 14, police and Interior Ministry sources told the Reuters news agency.]

Six people were also killed Sunday morning in Sadr City, a large Shiite slum in Baghdad, when U.S. forces and Iraqi commandos exchanged gunfire with members of the Mahdi Army, a militia loyal to the popular Shiite cleric, Moqtada Sadr.

The Mahdi Army controls Sadr City, which has become one of the safest areas of the capital in recent months. Residents of the slum stroll the streets after dark, taking in the cooler night air when the power goes out -- an activity unheard of in other parts of Baghdad.

The U.S. military said it had no immediate information on the incident.

Maj. Gen. Raad Tamimi, an Interior Ministry official, said the clashes began when an armed group of Sadr's followers gathered near a mosque, raising the suspicions of U.S. and Iraqi troops on patrol there. The U.S. forces "ordered the armed men to withdraw, but they refused and moved toward them," prompting the Americans to shoot, Tamimi said.

But residents of Sadr City said that the Iraqi troops had joined the Americans in an unprovoked assault on the Mahdi Army members.

Waleed Wadi Lafta, a resident who said he witnessed the exchange of gunfire, said "there were six pickups of the Interior Ministry commandos" and six American Humvees. "They came to arrest a man whom they did not find."


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