Attacks in Sunni Areas in Baghdad Kill at Least 29
BAGHDAD, May 22 — A truck laden with explosives detonated near a market in southwest Baghdad today, killing 25 and wounding more than 100 in the latest in a series of devastating attacks that have set back the American-led effort to stabilize the capital.
The blast destroyed houses and shops, leaving a deep crater and a wide swath of bodies and charred vehicles near the crowded Shaabiya market, in the largely Shia neighborhood of Amil, witnesses said.
Ali Salah, a high school student, said he saw a truck careen into a parked car before detonating near a checkpoint outside the market, one of the new security steps taken by American and Iraqi troops to seal off populated areas as much as possible from such attacks.
“All of a sudden I heard a loud explosion. There was a big cloud of dust and a piece of metal fell in front of my shop. I thought it was part of a vehicle,” said Abu Muhammad, a shop owner.
At least 114 people were wounded, according to an Interior Ministry official, including schoolgirls who had finished exams at a nearby intermediate school, according to a witness interviewed by phone who was shopping at the time with his mother.
Witnesses described a scene of confusion and mayhem as survivors ran in panic and rushed to transport the wounded and remove the dead as water from broken pipes and blood covered the streets.
“We managed to remove corpses of the martyrs. Some were kids and women and some were badly injured. This is a big crime. May God revenge them,” said Ahmed Abu Jasim, a merchant, who broke down in an interview as he described the scene.
Insurgents have stepped up their use of large car bombs, especially in Shia neighborhoods, a tactic that American commanders admit still has the potential to reignite sectarian bloodletting that has shown some signs of diminishing recently.
“Something this large obviously could have been much worse had it been inside the market,” said Lt. Col. Christopher Garver, a spokesman for American forces in Baghdad.
Earlier this month another large truck bomb detonated in the neighboring Baya district, killing at least 35 people and wounding 80 others.
Shortly after today’s attack, witnesses said Mahdi Army members, the Shiite militia loyal to Moktada al Sadr, began firing weapons into the air, apparently to disperse the crowd. They later exchanged gunfire with American troops and Iraqi police who arrived and sealed off the area, the witnesses said.
“The fighters thought that the Americans were here to arrest them,” according to a man who declined to give his name.
Mr. Salah, the high school student, had been taking his six-year cousin for an inoculation before the bomb went off.
Several months earlier, he said, his family had left its home near the Baghdad airport, near some of the worst sectarian fighting, and come to the Amil neighborhood, because it is protected by the Mahdi Army.
When the bomb went off on Tuesday, he and his cousin were hit by shrapnel and flying glass and fell to the ground, their clothes shredded. They climbed into a truck picking up wounded and dead, which included two badly mangled young children.
“It was a horrible scene,” he said.
Later in the day, women in black gathered at the door weeping as men exchanged condolences, while other men from the neighborhood loaded coffins onto a mini bus and headed to the cemetery.
“It is so sad, but what can we do?” said Mr. Muhammad the shop owner. “We leave our homes everyday without knowing if we will return or not.”
In Adhamiya in northern Baghdad today, mortar shells killed four and wounded 25, most of them students at Ibn al-Haitham College, witnesses said.
Talib Najim 23, a student at Ibn al-Haitham College, said three mortars landed inside the college at around 8:50 a.m., before the start of lectures. One of the mortars exploded in the corridor between the biology and physics departments and the other two landed near the computer department, but did not explode, he said.
“I saw a lot of wounded students, their uniforms, the white shirts and gray trousers, stained with blood,” he said.
In Diyala province, terrorists who had set up a roadblock resembling an official checkpoint opened fire on a car with a family inside, killing a man and a woman and their four children, police said.
Ali Adeeb and Khalid al-Ansary contributed reporting.