Suicide Attacks Kill 144; 8 U.S. Troops Die in Iraq

By Sudarsan Raghavan
Washington Post Foreign Service
Sunday, July 8, 2007

BAGHDAD, July 7 -- Suicide attacks across Iraq killed at least 144 people and injured scores in an 18-hour period, including a massive truck bombing in a northern Shiite village that ripped through a crowded market, burying dozens in the rubble of shops and mud houses, Iraqi officials said Saturday.

Shattering a relative lull in Iraq's violence, the attacks raised questions about whether insurgents who have fled an ongoing military offensive in Baghdad and Diyala province are regrouping and assaulting soft targets elsewhere, in less-secure areas with fewer troops.

The violence came as the U.S. military reported Saturday that eight American soldiers had been killed over the past two days, all in combat or by roadside bombs in Baghdad and the western province of Anbar. The fatalities underscored the mounting death toll during the five-month security offensive, reinforced by thousands of U.S. troops, that is meant to help Iraq meet political and security goals set by the Bush administration.

The worst carnage occurred in the Shiite Turkmen village of Armili, 50 miles south of the oil-rich city of Kirkuk, when a suicide bomber detonated a food truck loaded with explosives in the central market at 9:30 a.m., officials said.

Police and provincial officials put the death toll at 115 but said they expected the number to rise. Col. Abbas Mohammed Amin, the police commander of Tuz Khormato district, where the village is located, said 155 were killed, including 25 children and 40 women. About 250 were wounded, he said.

"I was working in my shop at the market when suddenly I was thrown on the ground, and the shop's ceiling collapsed on me, breaking my leg," said Abbas Qanbar Asghar al-Bayati, 32, a repairman, who also sustained injuries to his head and shoulders. "I could not see anything because of the smoke and dust, which covered the whole village."

The explosion shattered more than 20 shops and 50 mud houses, the walls and roofs collapsing over their inhabitants, said Col. Abbas Qanbar Taqi, commander of the Armili police force. The wounded were transported to hospitals in Tuz Khormato and Kirkuk, and then, as those hospitals overflowed with victims, to Sulaymaniyah, 75 miles to the southwest. Crowds gathered in front of Kirkuk Hospital to donate blood, said Mohammad Jassem, a doctor who was treating victims.

At the hospital, Bayati learned that his brother had died in the rubble of their house. "I would like to ask what religion, what Islam would allow such savagery to kill peaceful villagers in this way?" he asked. "We are rural people who don't even know the road to Baghdad or anywhere else, and our main interest is to eke out a living."

Zainab Abdul Hussein, 41, a junior high school teacher and mother of four, suffered serious burns on her hands and other parts of her body. Speaking from her hospital bed in Tuz Khormato, she said the explosion was so powerful that it killed an entire family of seven.

They were her relatives, she said.

"The huge fire reached inside the homes, and shrapnel flew in all directions, killing many," Hussein said. "I was rescued and brought here by men from the village next to ours. There were no ambulances."

She asked about her 5-year-old son who was playing in front of their house before it collapsed. The nurses told her that the boy was missing and probably dead.

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