Rash of Bombings Kills 34 in Iraqi Capital

By Anthony Shadid and Sudarsan Raghavan
Washington Post Foreign Service
Tuesday, April 7, 2009

BAGHDAD, April 6 -- A wave of bombings struck markets, a police convoy and a group of day laborers in Shiite Muslim neighborhoods Monday, killing 34 people and wounding more than 120 in one of the most violent days in the Iraqi capital in months.

The toll rivaled a bombing last month at the police academy in a fortified part of Baghdad, when an assailant on a motorcycle plowed into a crowd and killed 28 people. But the breadth and coordination of Monday's attacks -- six bombings detonated from one end of the capital to the other, most of them over a short burst of time -- bore the hallmarks of a campaign of violence reminiscent of those mounted during Baghdad's bloodiest days in 2006 and 2007.

The bombings shattered a semblance of the ordinary that had returned to Baghdad in past months. Six car bombs had detonated in the capital in all of January, Interior Ministry officials said, four in February and three in March. Many in the city took Monday's carnage as evidence that tensions between Iraq's Shiite parties and within Sunni communities have deepened, and that unknown new forces were at work.

In each attack, explosives were packed in a car parked near its apparent target, then detonated remotely. Although an Interior Ministry official blamed the Sunni insurgent group al-Qaeda in Iraq, none of the attacks appeared to be carried out by suicide bombers, a favored tactic of the organization. Survivors blamed groups that ran the political gamut of Iraq, testifying to a landscape arguably murkier than at any time since the U.S.-led invasion in 2003.

The strikes called into question statements by Iraqi military officials that insurgents had lost their ability to strike with ease in the heart of the capital. The attacks also raised concerns among many in Baghdad and elsewhere that violence may be worsening as the American military begins a withdrawal of combat troops slated to end by August 2010.

In one of the deadliest blasts, a car bomb exploded near a market in Sadr City, once a stronghold of a militia loyal to Moqtada al-Sadr, an anti-American Shiite cleric. Residents said the assailant tried to jump the median, then parked the car. Ten minutes later, the explosive detonated, slicing through crowds of women with their children shopping for vegetables.

A gray minibus ignited, killing most of the passengers inside, residents said. The Interior Ministry said 10 people were killed and at least 65 were wounded.

Soggy vegetables spilled across the pavement, which was smeared with blood. The air was suffused with the stench of pools of sewage that mixed with water residents carried into the street to douse fires that had burned three cars.

"They're simply poor people. Why would this happen to them?" asked Abu Abbas Raad, as he stared at a piece of cardboard that he said was used to scoop up a child's brain. Others gathered, pointing at blood-stained pavement that drew flies.

As at a bombing last month in Shaab, another Shiite neighborhood, Iraqi forces were pelted with rocks as they arrived. Some survivors complained they arrived too late. When they did, others said, they shot in the air, wounding a survivor.

When they returned hours later, the scene recalled an earlier time when U.S. forces would pass through the slum, long one of the most turbulent swaths of the capital. Residents watched with their arms folded over their chests, their stares smoldering.

"Where were they when the bomb went off?" Abu Hassan Mohammed asked.

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