Baghdad bombs kill 71 waiting to get work.
Suspected insurgents set off two bombs in a main square of central Baghdad where scores of Iraqis were waiting for jobs as day labourers yesterday, killing at least 71 people and wounding 151, police said.
The carefully co-ordinated attack in Tayaran Square at 7am involved a parked car bomb and a suicide attacker who drove up in a minibus, pretended to hire day labourers, then set off his explosive as they got into his vehicle, said police Lt. Bilal Ali.
The simultaneous explosions, which occurred about 100 feet apart, shattered windows in store fronts, left craters and blood stains in the road, and set fire to about 10 other cars.
At least 71 Iraqis, including seven policemen, were killed in the attack and 151 people wounded, said police Lt Bilal Ali Majid and Capt. Mohammed Abdul-Ghani said.
Ali said most of the victims were Shiites from poor areas of the capital such as Sadr City.
Shop owner Khalil Ibrahim, aged 41, said: "In the first explosion, I saw people falling over, some of them blown apart. When the other bomb went off seconds later, it slammed me into a wall of my store and I fainted."
Mr Ibrahim had been rushed to a local hospital to be treated for shrapnel wounds to his head and back.
When the attack occurred, police at a nearby checkpoint fired random shots in several directions, but residents soon rushed to the devastated area to see if friends or relatives had been killed or wounded.
In one area, mangled bodies were piled up at the side of the road and partially covered with paper. Two Iraqi men sat on a nearby sidewalk crying and sometimes covering their faces with their hands.
"The driver of the minibus lured the people to hire them as labourers, and after they gathered he detonated the vehicle," said another witness, Ali Hussein. Taking hold of an older man who was walking by in a daze with a bloody bandage tied around his head, Hussein said: "Look at this injured man. He comes from a big family."
Prime Minister Nouri Maliki, a member of Iraq's Shiite majority, blamed the attack on Saddamists and Takfiri (Sunni extremists).
"We condemn this horrible crime and Iraq's security forces will chase the criminals and present them to the justice," he said in a statement.
In a speech in the legislature, Parliament speaker Mahmoud al-Mashhadani, a Sunni, said: "There was a massacre, the kind that Iraqis are used to every morning." He said the attack targeted poor people who were trying to feed their families, "turning them into pieces of flesh. God's curse upon those who are behind this."
He urged the deeply divided legislature of Shiites, Sunnis and Kurds "to find a solution" to Iraq's many problems.
In Baghdad, where many people are unemployed, scores of Iraqis gather in the square early in the morning to wait for minibuses or private cars that stop by and hire them for the day as construction workers, cleaners or painters.
Nearby, small stands are set up to sell the labourers a breakfast of tea and egg sandwiches.
Tayaran Square is located near several government ministries and a bridge that crosses the Tigris River to the heavily fortified Green Zone, where Iraq's parliament and the US and British embassies are based.
Day labourers have been the target of similar attacks in the past. On November 19, a suicide bomber in a mini-van lured day labourers to his vehicle with promises of a job in the mainly Shiite southern city of Hillah, killing 22 people and wounding 44, police said.
Shortly after the Tayaran Square explosions, two roadside bombs targeting Iraqi police patrols also exploded about one mile away at 8.25am and 8.40am, wounding two policemen and seven Iraqi civilians, said police Capt. Mohammed Abdul-Ghani.
On Monday, at least 66 people were killed or found dead in the Baghdad area and northern Iraq.
Detainees stand blindfolded in an army base in Baqouba, 35 miles northeast of Baghdad. The Iraq army arrested a total of 54 wanted men in and around Baqouba yesterday Picture, ADEM HADEI / AP
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|Publication:||The Birmingham Post (England)|
|Date:||Dec 13, 2006|
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