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Explosions rock Baghdad as death toll rises from Karbala attack

Explosions rock Baghdad as death toll rises from Karbala attack

U.S. forces fired an artillery barrage in southern Baghdad yesterday morning, rocking the capital with loud explosions. The death toll from a suicide car bomb attack in the Shiite holy city of Karbala rose to 68 as residents dug through the debris of heavily damaged shops.
The blasts in Baghdad came a day after the U.S. military announced the deaths of nine American troops, including four killed in separate roadside bombings south of Baghdad and five in fighting in Anbar province, a Sunni insurgent stronghold west of the capital.
The size and the pattern of the explosions, which lasted for at least 15 minutes beginning around 9 a.m., suggested they were directed at Sunni militant neighborhoods along the city's southern rim. Such blasts have been heard in the evenings but are rare at that time of day.
In a brief statement to The Associated Press, the U.S. military said it fired the artillery from a forward operating base near Iraq's Rasheed military base southeast of Baghdad, but provided no other details.
Iraqis in the southern region of the city said American and Iraqi forces had stepped up their operations in the Dora area of southern Baghdad starting Saturday night.
Authorities in northern Iraq imposed an indefinite curfew in the Sunni stronghold of Samarra after leaflets signed by rival insurgent groups threatened policemen if they did not quit their jobs and promised to target any oil company that wants to explore in the area. The warnings to the policemen were signed by al-Qaida in Iraq and threatened to destroy their houses if they didn't comply.
Iran, meanwhile, said it was sending top envoy Ali Larijani to Baghdad in a signal that it is warming toward the idea of participating in an international conference on Iraq later this week in Egypt.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Mohammad Ali Hosseini said Larijani would discuss the conference with Iraqi government officials, who have been pressing for Iranian participation to boost regional support for their wartorn country.
The blast in Karbala, 80 kilometers south of Baghdad, took place about 7 p.m. Saturday in a crowded commercial area about 200 meters from the shrines of Imam Abbas and Imam Hussein, major Shiite saints. The shrines, some of the country's most sacred, were not damaged, police said.
Police first thought the explosion was caused by a parked car bomb, but Ghalib al-Daami, a Karbala provincial council member, said yesterday it was a suicide car bomber in the busy commercial center.
Salim Kazim, the spokesman for Karbala health directorate, said the casualty figures had risen to 68 dead after some of the wounded died and more bodies were found on the roofs of buildings or in the rubble, and 178 were wounded.
As police maintained a vehicle ban in the city, people began digging through the rubble of damaged shops, lifting debris from the powerful explosion, which had shot flames into the air.


Updated : 2021-03-02 10:09 GMT+08:00