Attack on Crowded Livestock Market South of Baghdad Kills 12

Map shows Hillah, Iraq, where a car bomb exploded killing at least 12.
Map shows Hillah, Iraq, where a car bomb exploded killing at least 12. (Y. Yajima - AP)
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By Saad Sarhan and Sudarsan Raghavan
Washington Post Foreign Service
Thursday, March 5, 2009; 2:43 PM

HILLAH, Iraq, March 5 -- A car bomb exploded in a crowded livestock market south of Baghdad on Thursday, killing at least 12 people and injuring scores of others, police said.

The attackers parked the car in the market during one of its busiest days, detonating it by remote control, said Maj. Gen. Fadhil Raddad, the commander of the Babil provincial police force. Virtually all of the victims were civilians who had come to sell their cattle and other livestock in this central Iraqi city, 60 miles south of the capital.

"I was standing at one side of the market working as I do every day, and then suddenly there was this huge explosion," said Kassim Abdullah, 40, a butcher who was injured in the leg and neck and spoke from his hospital bed. "I felt I was hit, and was thrown on the ground. For almost 10 minutes I could not move. Then rescuers came and brought me to the hospital."

"This was a cold-blooded crime against poor simple people who were here to make a living," he added. "I can't understand why we would be targeted."

Although violence in Iraq is at its lowest level since 2003 and 2004, Thursday's attack underscored the ability of insurgents to stage deadly assaults. In recent weeks, there have been dramatic attacks across Iraq against U.S. soldiers and Iraqi civilians.

In February 2005, a suicide car bomber killed 125 police recruits in Hillah, one of the most devastating attacks since the U.S.-led invasion in 2003. And last March, a pair of suicide bombers detonated themselves among a crowd of Shiite pilgrims, killing 120 people. A month earlier, another attack on a market in Hillah killed 73.

Thursday's attack took place in the city's mostly Shiite enclave of Hamza al-Garbi. Raddad, the police commander, said the perpetrators had planned the attack well in advance and it had been designed to inflict maximum casualties.

"We believe they had come to the area more than once to make people trust them and feel safe, then did this horrific explosion," said Raddad, adding that 15 people had been detained for questioning.

"I don't know who would do such a thing, or why, because this is a poor area with poor people trying to make a living," said Hussein Rahim Abboud, 30, a cattle trader who was injured in the head by shrapnel. "There were no police, army or Americans here. This explosion was a pure act of terrorism, nothing else."

Also Wednesday, gunmen killed a senior Ministry of Interior official, Brig. Gen. Salam Salman Mohammed, as he drove to work in Baghdad. Two roadside bombs blew up in the western part of the capital, wounding several people.

Special correspondent K.I. Ibrahim in Baghdad contributed to this report.

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