By Amit R. Paley
Washington Post Foreign Service
Monday, January 7, 2008
BAGHDAD, Jan. 6 -- A suicide bomber detonated explosives in the middle of a raucous Iraqi Army Day celebration Sunday, killing at least five people, including Iraqi soldiers who hurled themselves at the attacker to prevent further casualties, U.S. and Iraqi officials said.
The bombing was the latest in a series that have rocked the capital in recent weeks after months of declining violence had led to a newfound sense of security.
Reports of the death toll varied. The U.S. military said three Iraqi soldiers who tried to stop the bomber were killed along with two bystanders. Four Iraqi civilians were wounded, according to the military.
"These martyrs gave their lives so that others might live," Lt. Col. Steve Stover, a spokesman for U.S. forces in Baghdad, said in a statement.
An Iraqi Interior Ministry official said nine people were killed and 12 wounded. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the news media.
Maj. Gen. Abdul Kareem al-Izzi, police commander for eastern Baghdad, said three soldiers were killed and four wounded. He said there were no civilian casualties.
The attack took place in Baghdad's Karrada neighborhood during a jubilant street festival commemorating the 87th anniversary of the founding of the Iraqi army.
Moments before the attack, revelers were flashing V-for-victory signs and waving flowers. Afterward, blood pooled in the streets near bodies and AK-47 assault rifles.
Violence flared elsewhere in Iraq on Sunday. The U.S. military announced that an American soldier was killed and three were wounded in southern Baghdad when a roadside bomb exploded next to their vehicle. No other details were released.
In the volatile province of Diyala, four severed heads were found in the town of Muqdadiyah by U.S.-backed neighborhood patrols that are fighting Sunni insurgents, according to Hussein al-Zubaidi, chief of the provincial council's security committee.
In the northern city of Mosul, a string of coordinated bombs rattled four Christian targets, police officials said. Two churches, a convent and an orphanage were damaged, the officials said, but no one was injured, in large part because so many Christians have fled the city after repeated threats against them since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion.
"The bombing astonished us," said Faraj Rahoo, the Chaldean archbishop of Mosul, "especially after Christmas passed peacefully without any sad events."
Special correspondents Zaid Sabah, K.I. Ibrahim, Dalya Hassan and Saad al-Izzi in Baghdad, Dlovan Brwari near Mosul and other Washington Post staff in Iraq contributed to this report.