Fiery Blast in Baghdad Kills 38

By Amit R. Paley and Salih Dehema
Washington Post Staff Writers
Sunday, September 24, 2006

BAGHDAD, Sept. 23 -- A fiery explosion tore through a line of people waiting to buy fuel on Saturday and killed at least 38 people, most of them women and children, continuing the wave of tit-for-tat sectarian killings.

The horrific blast sent women engulfed in flames screaming through the streets. Two preteen girls embraced each other as they burned to death, witnesses said. Later, wailing mourners thronged the scene of the blast, which was strewn with the shoes of victims and a woman's bloodied cloak, and voiced doubt that the reprisal violence would ever end.

"We carry our death certificates with us now, waiting only to fill in the date of death," said Bayan Jasem al-Kaaby, 40, a minibus driver, after he was burned by the explosion that rocked the Shiite Muslim slum of Sadr City at about 10 a.m.

A Sunni Arab insurgent group, Jamaat Jund al-Sahaaba, or Soldiers of the Prophet's Companions, asserted responsibility for the bombing. The group said in an Internet statement that the attack was retribution for assaults on Sunnis in the Hurriyah district of Baghdad, where police said two mosques were attacked and five people were killed Friday.

"We tell the malicious Shiites that our swords are able to reach the depths of your areas, so stop the killing" of the Sunni people, the statement said, according to a translation by the Washington-based SITE Institute.

It was not immediately clear what caused the explosion. Jamaat Jund al-Sahaaba asserted that it had detonated a booby-trapped car, but witnesses said they saw a female suicide bomber, wearing a black veil that left only her eyes exposed, detonate explosives as she tried to cut into a line of women waiting for kerosene. The bomber pushed a cart carrying a metal barrel filled with ball bearings, witnesses said.

An Interior Ministry spokesman, Brig. Gen. Mohammed Salman, said at least 31 people were wounded.

By midafternoon, the street where the explosion took place was still littered with abandoned yellow, red and blue jerrycans. Bits of flesh flecked the muddy ground, and blood pooled in front of Um Ali's home, left by a woman who clutched her infant child as she bled from a wound in her neck.

"She mumbled some words incoherently," said Um Ali, 44. "Then she fell at my doorstep and died."

Local residents blamed the blast on Sunnis. "This is the work of the infidels who want to kill the Shiites with the help of the American forces and even this government," said a Shiite militiaman who identified himself as Sheik Mohammed.

Outside a hospital in Sadr City, a woman pummeled her face with her hands and shrieked the name of her dead younger sister Eman, the mother of three children.

"What am I going to say to your children and your husband? What shall I say? That I killed you when I sent you to that gas station?" wailed the woman, who refused to give her name. "I took her along to buy kerosene without her husband's permission. As we stood in line, I told her I had forgotten something and would be back soon. As I reached the end of the alley, the explosion happened and I was thrown on the ground.

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