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Iraqis Say Death Toll In 2 Blasts Is Near 100

At a hospital morgue, Iraqis carry the coffin of a man killed Friday in one of two blasts at pet markets in Baghdad. A U.S. military spokesman said photos of the two female bombers suggest they might have had Down syndrome.
At a hospital morgue, Iraqis carry the coffin of a man killed Friday in one of two blasts at pet markets in Baghdad. A U.S. military spokesman said photos of the two female bombers suggest they might have had Down syndrome. (By Wathiq Khuzaie -- Getty Images)

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By Joshua Partlow
Washington Post Foreign Service
Sunday, February 3, 2008

BAGHDAD, Feb. 2 -- Iraqi officials said Saturday that as many as 100 people may have been killed in two bombings at Baghdad markets, broadening the scope of the carnage in what was the deadliest day in the Iraqi capital in months.

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The top U.S. military commander in Baghdad, meanwhile, said there were indications that the two female bombers in Friday's attacks were "mentally handicapped" and that they might have been coerced into blowing themselves up by the Sunni insurgent group al-Qaeda in Iraq.

"From what I've seen, it appears the suicide bombers were not willing martyrs, they were used by al-Qaeda for these horrific attacks," Maj. Gen. Jeffery W. Hammond told reporters in Baghdad. "These two women were likely used because they didn't understand what was happening and they were less likely to be searched."

Lt. Col. Steven Stover, a military spokesman in Baghdad, said that U.S. officers had reviewed photographs of the heads of the two women after the attack and that "they had the facial features of somebody who basically has Down syndrome."

An Iraqi military spokesman, Brig. Gen. Qasim Ata' Zahil, said that the two females bore a striking resemblance to each other and that he believed both were younger than 16. He said some shopkeepers in the two Baghdad markets recognized them as regular visitors to the area.

The two bombs exploded within about 10 minutes of each other Friday morning amid the crowds in two markets. In the first attack, at the Ghazil pet market, the bomber wore a suicide vest, Stover said. In the second, at the Dove Market in the New Baghdad neighborhood, the bomber wore a backpack filled with ball bearings. Stover said the second bomb might have been detonated remotely.

"It's appalling that someone would do something that evil to get these two to carry it into a market," he said.

The day after the bombings, the death toll varied widely. U.S. military officials stuck with their initial tally of 27 people killed, while Brig. Gen. Zahil said 56 people were killed. The Associated Press, citing Iraqi officials, reported that 62 people died in the first blast and 37 others in the second. Iraqi television stations also said the death toll was in the 90s.

There are often discrepancies in the number of dead reported by American and Iraqi sources. Some of the difference may be attributed to the quick removal of bodies from the scene before an accurate count can be taken.

Special correspondent Naseer Nouri contributed to this report.


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