Truck Bombs Kill 175 in Iraq's North

By Megan Greenwell and Dlovan Brwari
Washington Post Staff Writers
Wednesday, August 15, 2007

BAGHDAD, Aug. 14 -- At least 175 people were killed Tuesday night by four truck bombs in a massive coordinated attack against members of a small religious sect, the Yazidis, in northern Iraq, the Iraqi army said.

The nearly simultaneous explosions, in three Yazidi communities near the town of Sinjar, added up to the deadliest attack in Iraq this year and one of the most lethal since the U.S.-led invasion in 2003. Hundreds of wounded people were flown or driven to hospitals, overwhelming every emergency room in the region, according to George Shlimon, vice mayor of the nearby city of Dahuk.

In Baghdad, the U.S. military reported the deaths of nine American military personnel in three incidents, including the crash of a twin-rotor Chinook helicopter. A truck bomb rendered impassable a bridge on a major route from Baghdad to the north.

Khidr Farhan was on his way to buy vegetables when the first truck bomb exploded near the market in his tiny Yazidi enclave. "I found myself flying through the air, and my face was burning," he said from his hospital bed in Dahuk, where he was recovering from a concussion, a broken leg and a broken rib.

"I felt my leg hurting, and I knew my head was bleeding," he said. "Then I couldn't feel anything. When I woke up, I was in the hospital."

During an interview with a Washington Post special correspondent, Farhan began to cry. "Where is my family?" he said. "I left my wife and my four children at home. Did they die?"

Haji Sido was driving from his workplace to his home in the Tall Aziz community when another of the bombs exploded there. He was not injured, but most of the mud-walled huts in the village collapsed and dead bodies littered the ground, he recounted.

"I ran past people screaming on the ground," he said. "I didn't care, because I had to get to my family. When I got home, my wife said: 'Calm down and thank God. We are safe.' "

Like other recent, large-scale bombing attacks, Tuesday's took place in an area with a relatively small military presence. Since the United States sent an additional 30,000 troops to Iraq this year, insurgents have increasingly targeted areas outside military control. Last month, a bombing near the city of Kirkuk -- another northern city that did not receive additional troops -- killed about 150 people.

The Yazidis are an ancient group whose faith combines elements of many historical religions of the region. They worship a peacock archangel and are considered Satanists by some Muslims and Christians in Iraq, a characterization they reject.

Yazidis largely live apart from other Iraqis, in villages near the Syrian border, to maintain religious purity, and they are forbidden to fraternize with other groups. Most Yazidis speak Kurdish but object to being called Kurds.

Despite such isolation, tensions among the Yazidis, Muslim Kurds and Arab groups in northern Iraq have led to increasingly violent incidents. In April, a 17-year-old Yazidi girl was stoned to death after she eloped with a Sunni Muslim man and converted to Islam. Cellphone video footage of her death, called an "honor killing" by other Yazidis, was broadcast widely on the Internet, setting off a wave of attacks against the group.

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