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Bomb strikes animal market in central Baghdad, killing at least 15 people and wounding dozens

Bomb strikes animal market in central Baghdad, killing at least 15 people and wounding dozens

A bomb hidden in a box of pigeons and surrounded by a group of shoppers tore through a busy pet and livestock market Friday, littering the blood-soaked pavement with human remains and animal carcasses. At least 62 people were killed or found dead nationwide, including a U.S. Marine.
The attack shattered the calm as Baghdad residents strolled through the popular weekly market on the Muslim day of rest, examining stalls where sellers were peddling birds, dogs, cats, sheep and goats and exotic animals such as snakes and monkeys at the popular weekly market.
"I went this morning to the animal market to earn some money and to entertain myself, instead I was hit by the explosion and lost consciousness, my pigeons and my mobile phone," Sajad Abdel-Jabar, an 18-year-old homing pigeon vendor said from his hospital bed.
Nobody claimed responsibility for the bombing, which police and hospital officials said killed 15 people and wounded 66. Suspicion fell on Sunni insurgents as the market sits near a predominantly Shiite neighborhood on the east bank of the Tigris River that divides Baghdad.
It also was the latest in a series of attacks against busy commercial targets in the capital as insurgents apparently sought to maximize bloodshed before a U.S.-Iraqi security crackdown gets started.
Attacks elsewhere left at least 46 people dead, including 38 bullet-riddled bodies that were found, most in Baghdad. The body of a well-known Shiite boxer who had been kidnapped days ago also was found in central Baghdad, with wounds on his neck that indicated he had been hanged, police said.
A Marine was killed in fighting in the Sunni insurgent stronghold of Anbar province, west of Baghdad, the military said, raising the number of service members who have died since the war began nearly four years ago to at least 3,070, according to an Associated Press count.
U.S. Democrats House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Rep. John Murtha, both vocal war critics, met with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki in the Green Zone, site of the American Embassy _ a day after a rocket attack against the heavily fortified complex injured six people.
"We come out of the meeting with a greater understanding of the others' point of view," Pelosi said in brief remarks, adding that the delegation also came "to convey to our troops the appreciation of the American people for what they're doing, to applaud their patriotism."
Pelosi has been a sharp critic of the Bush administration's conduct of the war and has led a drive in Congress against sending 21,500 more troops as part of a new security crackdown in Baghdad.
In Washington on Friday, U.S. President George W. Bush challenged skeptical lawmakers not to prematurely condemn his buildup, saying "I'm the decision-maker."
The explosion struck the Souq al-Ghazl at about 10 a.m., one of the busiest time of days for the animal vendors and an hour before the start of a four-hour vehicle ban that is imposed every Friday to prevent car bombs from striking mosques during weekly Islamic prayers.
The bomb detonated in the part of the market that specializes in birds, while other areas are reserved for trading fish or dogs or other animals.
The suspected bomber arrived with an egg carton containing pigeons for sale, but it exploded after he walked away to get a drink, striking the potential buyers gathering around the box, according to police and witnesses.
Raad Hassan, a frequent customer at the market, said he was about 60 yards away from the site of the blast.
"My friends and I rushed to the scene where we saw burned dead bodies, pieces of flesh and several dead expensive puppies and birds," he said.
Ali Nassir said dead animals were scattered on the blood-soaked ground and several snakes, monkeys and birds had been let loose from their cages as ambulances and police cars converged on the scene.
"The policemen are firing in the air in order to disperse the crowds of people arriving to find out what happened to relatives who were missing," he said. "The explosion was huge and happened in a crowded place."
The al-Ghazl market, or Spinning Market, also was attacked in early June, when two bombings struck in quick succession, killing at least five people, as insurgents often strike commercial targets to maximize the casualties.
The popular market stands next to the famous 13th century Sunni Ulama Mosque that was built by the Abbasid dynasty. The shops around the mosque used to be known for their spinning mills but the area evolved into an animal market a few decades ago.
The shops are open all the week but vendors come on Friday and set up stalls on the 500-meter (yard) long stretch of pavement on Jumhuri Street.
Anger also mounted in the central commercial district of Karradah a day after a suicide car bomber struck the mainly Shiite area, killing at least 30 people, including a local tea vendor and several people in a cafe, according to residents.
Many Shiites in the neighborhood called for revenge against Sunnis and urged Iraq's spiritual leader Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani to issue a fatwa allowing them to take it.
Police also found a bomb in the same area apparently targeting a Shiite procession that is part of the 10-day Ashoura festival, which marks the death of Imam Hussein, grandson of the Prophet Muhammad and one of the most-revered Shiite saints.
The bomb could not be defused so police detonated the explosive device in a controlled blast, which damaged several stores.


Updated : 2020-12-02 05:50 GMT+08:00