Toll in N. Iraq Passes 250; Attack Is Deadliest of War
Thursday, August 16, 2007
BAGHDAD, Aug. 15 -- The confirmed death toll from four coordinated truck bombings in northern Iraq passed 250 Wednesday, as rescue workers used bulldozers and bare hands to recover bodies in two isolated communities near the Syrian border. The attack now ranks as the deadliest of the Iraq war.
Officials cautioned that many more bodies might lie under clay-brick rubble in the villages of Qataniyah and Jazeera, where almost every house was flattened by the quick succession of suicide explosions Tuesday night. As rescuers arrived with bulldozers to assist in the recovery effort, sobbing survivors gestured toward relatives' arms and legs sticking out from under collapsed houses, television images showed.
Twenty-four hours after the blasts, there was no explanation for why such a massive and sophisticated attack would be unleashed against members of a small, obscure religious sect, the Yazidis, who pride themselves on their detachment from the rest of Iraqi society. Recent violence between the sect and rival groups in the area has not been exceptional by the standards of present-day Iraq.
No group asserted responsibility for Tuesday's carnage. U.S. analysts said the bombings resembled attacks staged by the insurgent group al-Qaeda in Iraq. In Baghdad, politicians issued condemnations.
At the hospital in the nearby town of Dahuk, critically wounded victims lay on the floor Wednesday because there were no beds. The morgues were so full that corpses, some with missing limbs or other disfigurement, were stacked on the ground outside.
In the split second it took for the first truck bomb to destroy Qataniyah, 10-year-old Sanar Salim became the man of the house.
He could hear his 8-year-old brother and 2-year-old sister screaming, but he could not see them through the smoke and dust, he said Wednesday. The clay walls of his parents' bedroom had collapsed, burying them.
"When I found them, my sister's crib had flipped over, and my brother was covered in blood," Sanar said. "I picked up my sister and took my brother and went outside, but I was crying too."
Neighbors pulled Sanar's mother and father from the remains of their home and rushed the whole family to a hospital in Dahuk. The parents were in serious condition Wednesday, but both were expected to survive.
Lying in a hospital bed, Sanar's mother, Leila Khalil, sobbed as she struggled to understand what had happened. Khalil had undergone surgery to stop internal bleeding and had several broken bones, her husband said.
"Why did this happen to us? We never harmed anyone, but they still hate us. How could they do this to us?" asked Khalil, 30.
Khalil said she initially assumed that her entire immediate family had been killed, adding that she did not believe they were alive until she saw them in the hospital. Several other relatives died, she said. All 12 members of a neighbor's family died, too.