At Least 24 Killed in Car Bombings in Baghdad

By Ernesto Londoño
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, January 26, 2007

BAGHDAD, Jan. 25 -- Two car bombs detonated in a busy commercial area of central Baghdad on Thursday afternoon, killing at least 24 people and injuring dozens more, Iraqi officials said.

The bombs were placed in Karrada, a predominantly Shiite Muslim sector of the city, and wounded at least 60 people when detonated, according to a spokesman for the Iraqi Interior Ministry. A set of car bombs killed at least 79 people in a Shiite market in central Baghdad on Monday.

The Karrada explosions occurred shortly after at least two rockets struck the U.S. Embassy compound in the fortified Green Zone. The rockets injured six people, one of them seriously, the U.S. military said in a statement.

U.S. Embassy spokesman Lou Fintor said the rounds landed inside the compound shortly after 4 p.m.

"The damage was minor, and the embassy is functioning normally," Fintor said. "It wasn't a densely populated area." He said that no U.S. citizens were injured and that none of the injuries was life-threatening.

Also Thursday, a soldier from the U.S.-led coalition was killed northwest of Baghdad when a roadside bomb exploded near his vehicle, the military said in a statement. The soldier's identity was withheld pending notification of next of kin.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki asked lawmakers Thursday to embrace his security plan for the capital, which he said would target militants aggressively regardless of sect.

"Some people are saying that it targets the Shiites, and others say that it targets Sunnis," Maliki said. "While I say that it targets everyone."

Maliki offered few details of the initiative. While acknowledging the support of U.S. forces, he said the security plan is being driven by the Iraqi government. "This is a 100 percent Iraqi plan and under Iraqi command," he said, adding that the American military's role is "just to provide backup."

Reporters who have accompanied U.S. and Iraqi forces on joint missions in recent months have described American forces as taking control of the operations. Several U.S. soldiers have told reporters they don't trust the ability, competence or commitment of their Iraqi counterparts.

Maliki, a Shiite, has faced questions at home and abroad about his ability and willingness to enforce the law uniformly amid unrelenting sectarian violence in a country with a weak criminal justice system. He urged lawmakers during his speech to help him keep sectarian tensions from hindering the security plan.

But Thursday's session showed the extent to which sectarian tensions influence the political process. Abdul Nasser al-Janabi, a Sunni Muslim legislator who belongs to a bloc that wants U.S. troops to leave and has criticized Maliki for favoring Shiites, lashed out at the prime minister and criticized his security plan.

An exasperated Maliki appeared to threaten Janabi: "This brother will trust the prime ministry when I bring your file forward and hold you responsible." He did not elaborate.

Numerous other violent acts were reported in the capital and elsewhere Thursday.

A suicide bomber on a motorcycle slammed into a market in central Baghdad, killing eight people and injuring 18, according to a spokesman at the Interior Ministry. At least seven people were killed by improvised explosive devices elsewhere in the city.

Special correspondents Waleed Saffar and Saad al-Izzi contributed to this report.

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