Fleeing One Bomb, Iraqi Shoppers Die In Blast of Another
Friday, February 2, 2007; Page A01
BAGHDAD, Feb. 1 -- The man looked suspicious.
Without speaking a word, police officer Ahmed Eid Majood, guarding one of the entrances to the bazaar in the southern Iraqi city of Hilla, lunged toward the man and wrapped his arms around his body.
At that moment, the man detonated a belt packed with explosives, killing the officer and dozens of other people Thursday afternoon, a police spokesman said. The blast sent a throng of shoppers at the covered market rushing toward another exit.
There, a second attacker detonated his bomb, laced with nails and shards of metal, killing far more people than the first, Capt. Muthana Ahmed said.
The bombers killed at least 63 people and injured more than 150, but Ahmed and hospital officials said the death toll could rise because many of the injuries being treated Thursday night were life-threatening. More than 40 Iraqi civilians and police died in other violence across the country, officials said.
The twin bombings in Hilla were the latest mass killing of Shiite Muslims in recent weeks, raising the possibility that Shiite militias would increase their retaliatory attacks against Sunnis. The U.S. and Iraqi governments are in the early stages of a new security plan intended to pacify Baghdad and some other parts of the country.
In Hilla, "people were going up and down the market as usual," said Mohammed Saaid, 39, who was working in his sweets shop. "Suddenly there was thunder and lightning, and corpses were everywhere, and people were cut into pieces."
The explosions came about a minute apart, police and witnesses said. They shattered windows and destroyed dozens of small shops that dot the marketplace near the Euphrates River.
"I was confused and terrified," Saaid said in a telephone interview shortly after the attack. "I went out of my shop to check on my neighbors, and I saw a flood of blood. Men, women, children -- all dead."
Hilla, which is about 60 miles south of Baghdad, has experienced violence since the war began, but it is one of the least scarred cities in the country. The bazaar has been targeted twice before, by a suicide bomber and an improvised explosive device, each attack killing a handful of people.
Dozens of wounded were taken to nearby Hilla Hospital, where doctors devised additional operating rooms. Scores of seriously injured people were turned away to give priority to those in more dire condition.
"We are prepared, but not for such an amount of patients," Talib Ali, a doctor at the hospital, said in a telephone interview. "We had to call doctors who are on vacation and those who had already left for their houses."