Saturday, February 03, 2007

"They tried to kill us because we are Shia"

'The bomber struck close to the middle of the narrow market, which stretches for about an eighth of a mile, killing everyone nearby and dozens more in the apartment buildings and coffeehouses that line the market, witnesses said.

"Look at all these buildings," shouted Qadir Ali Ismael, a 41-year-old vegetable seller who escaped the blast, as he angrily waved at the buildings. "There were families living in these apartments and they didn't find anyone alive in there. All of those people were killed!"

Two buildings were flattened and 10 more seriously damaged. The attack left a crater 15 feet long, 10 feet wide and five feet deep. Shock waves seriously damaged some buildings a block away.

Police rushed frantically to rescue wounded people trapped inside buildings only to find that they could not break through damaged doors to get inside. By the time they did, some of the wounded had bled to death, said Abu Ali, who runs a health clinic a few blocks from the market.

"The doors wouldn't open," he said. "The rescuers are getting there too late." He said he alone treated more than 40 people, mostly children and women, and quickly ran out of first aid supplies at his clinic.

As the loudspeaker of a nearby Shiite mosque called for people to donate blood, American Humvees took up positions on a street that leads to a nearby Sunni neighborhood.

Anger spread throughout the crowd that the attack was the work of Sunni insurgents. One elderly man, crying and shouting, was surrounded by younger men.

"They tried to kill us because we are Shia," the older man said. "Why are there no bombs in Adhamiya," he said, referring to a large Sunni district of Baghdad. "Maliki and the Americans are the sons of dogs."

Grieving relatives rushed to hospitals. At the Imam Ali Hospital in Sadr City, the refrigerated portion of the morgue quickly filled and bodies were piled up next to it. People tried to donate blood but were told to go to a blood bank that is in a dangerous area of Baghdad, he said.

One man at the hospital, a Shiite who refused to give his name, said, "These people suffered under Saddam Hussein, and now they are still suffering."

The blast was the largest attack since November, when a series of bombs killed about 200 people in Sadr City. It also appeared to be the deadliest single bomb blast since the invasion, eclipsing even the September 2005 attack in a Shiite area of Baghdad in which a bomber killed more than 120 people seeking work as day laborers.'

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