Alexa
  • Directory of Taiwan

Car explodes near Shiite shrine as crowds head to prayers in holy city south of Baghdad, 58 killed

Car explodes near Shiite shrine as crowds head to prayers in holy city south of Baghdad, 58 killed

A car bomb exploded Saturday in the Shiite holy city of Karbala as the streets were packed with people heading for evening prayers, killing at least 58 and wounding scores near some of the country's most sacred shrines _ the second car bomb to strike the area in two weeks.
With black smoke clogging the sky, angry crowds hurled stones at police and later stormed the provincial governor's house, accusing authorities of failing to protect them from the unrelenting bombings _ often blamed on Sunni insurgents.
Near the blast site, horrified survivors scurried about, frantically searching for missing relatives. Iraqi television showed one man carrying the charred body of a small girl above his head as he ran down the street, while ambulances rushed to retrieve the wounded and firefighters sprayed water to extinguish fires in the twisted wreckage, leaving pools of bloodied water.
The blast took place about 7 p.m. in a crowded commercial area near the shrines of Imam Abbas and Imam Hussein, major Shiite saints. The U.S. military said American forces were on the scene and Iraqi army had asked for some medical supplies to help deal with the aftermath.
Security officials said the car packed with explosives was parked about 15 meters (yards) from a cement barrier preventing traffic from approaching the shrines, which draw thousands of Shiite pilgrims from Iran and other countries.
That suggested the attack, which occurred two weeks after 47 people were killed and 224 were wounded in a car bombing in the same area on April 14, was aimed at striking as many Shiite worshippers as possible.
Salim Kazim, the head of the health department in Karbala, 80 kilometers (50 miles) south of Baghdad, said 55 people were killed and 168 wounded. The figures were confirmed by Abdul-Al al-Yassiri, the head of Karbala's provincial council, who also said a 12-hour curfew was imposed starting at 8 p.m. Saturday.
"I did not expect this explosion because I thought the place was well protected by the police," said Qassim Hassan, a clothing merchant who was injured by the blast. "I demand a trial for the people in charge of the security in Karbala. They failed to prevent the security breaches."
Hassan, who spoke to a reporter from his hospital bed, said his brother and a cousin were still missing. "What is our guilt? I regret that I voted for those traitors who only care about their posts, not the people who voted for them."
The U.S. military has warned that such bombings were aimed at provoking retaliatory violence by Shiite militias, whose members have largely complied with political pressure to lay low and avoid confrontations with Americans during the U.S. troop buildup.
Public anger reflected mounting frustration at the Shiite-led government's failure to stop the violence as insurgents have proven resilient in finding ways to get around stepped up security measures.
Radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr launched a strong attack earlier Saturday on U.S. President George W. Bush, calling him the "greatest evil" for refusing to withdraw American troops from Iraq.
Al-Sadr's statement was read during a parliament session by his cousin, Liqaa al-Yassin, after the U.S. Congress ordered U.S. troops to begin leaving Iraq by Oct. 1. Bush pledged to veto the measure and neither the House nor the Senate passed the measure with enough votes to override him.
"Here are the Democrats calling you to withdraw or even set a timetable and you are not responding," al-Sadr's statement said. "It is not only them who are calling for this but also Republicans, to whom you belong."
"If you are ignoring your friends and partners, then it is no wonder that you ignore the international and Iraqi points of view. You will not benefit from this stubbornness," he added.
Al-Sadr led two armed uprisings against U.S. forces in 2004, and his Mahdi militia is believed responsible for much of the sectarian killing that pushed this country into civil conflict. The U.S. military says he has fled to Iran, although his followers insist he is hiding in Iraq.
Abdul-Al al-Yassiri, the head of the Karbala provincial council, said local authorities had raised fears that militants fleeing the Baghdad security crackdown were infiltrating their area.
"We have contacted the interior minister and asked them to supply us with equipment that can detect explosives," he said.
Crowds also stormed the provincial government offices and the governor's house, burning part of it along with three cars and scuffling with guards. Security forces rushed to the scene and detained several armed protesters, said Ghalib al-Daami, a provincial council member.
Ali Mohammed, 31, who sells prayer beads, said he heard the blast and felt himself hurled into the air.
"The next thing I knew I opened my eyes in the hospital with my legs and chest burned," he said. "This is a disaster. What is the guilt of the children and women killed today by this terrorist attack?"
It was the deadliest attack in Iraq since April 18, when 127 people were killed in a car bombing near the Sadriyah market in Baghdad _ one of four bombings that killed a total of 183 people in the bloodiest day since a U.S.-Iraq security operation began in the capital more than 10 weeks ago.
In all, at least 115 people were killed or found dead, including the bodies of 38 people killed execution-style _ apparent victims of the so-called sectarian death squads mostly run by Shiite militias.
In Baghdad, a mortar attack killed two people and wounded seven in the Sunni neighborhood of Azamiyah, where the U.S. military recently announced it was building a five-kilometer (three-mile) long and 3.6 meter (12-foot) tall concrete wall despite protests from residents and Sunni politicians that they were being isolated.
The U.S. military also said Saturday that a suicide truck bomber attacked the home of a city police chief the day before in the Sunni insurgent stronghold of Anbar province, killing nine Iraqi security forces and six civilians. Police chief Hamid Ibrahim al-Numrawi and his family escaped injury after Iraqi forces opened fire on the truck before it reached the concrete barrier outside the home in Hit, 135 kilometers (85 miles) west of Baghdad.
Elsewhere, U.S. forces detained 17 suspected insurgents in raids targeting al-Qaida in Iraq on Saturday, the military said, a day after the Pentagon announced the capture of one of the terror network's most senior and experienced operatives.
U.S. and Iraqi officials in Baghdad declined to comment about Abdul Hadi al-Iraqi, 46, who was captured last fall on his way to Iraq, where he may have been sent by top terror leaders in Pakistan to take a senior position in al-Qaida in Iraq, officials said Friday in Washington.
The insurgent group has claimed responsibility for some of the deadliest attacks in Iraq, including the bombing last year of a revered Shiite mosque in Samarra, which touched off a cycle of sectarian killings.
In Mahmoudiya, about 30 kilometers (20 miles) south of Baghdad, U.S. and Iraqi forces detained eight suspected insurgents and confiscated three caches of weapons during a raid on an apartment complex on April 22, including mortars, rockets and ammunition. The weapons appeared to be new and "were stamped with recent dates and Iranian markings," the military said.
The United States has frequently accused Iran of allowing insurgents to enter this country carrying weapons such as deadline roadside bombs used to attack U.S. and Iraqi convoys.
Separately, Denmark also announced it is sending special forces to southern Iraq in an effort to stop stepped-up attacks against Danish and British soldiers in the Shiite-dominated area near the southern city of Basra. Danish officials said the troops were on a temporary mission that would not affect the country's plans to withdraw its contingent by August and replace it with a smaller helicopter unit.


Updated : 2021-05-18 08:25 GMT+08:00