Iraq sui­cide blasts kill 96

Two at­tack­ers hit mourn­ers in tents

Winnipeg Free Press - SundayXtra - - NEWS CANADA I WORLD - By Adam Schreck and Sameer N. Ya­coub

BAGH­DAD — Two sui­cide bombers, one in an ex­plo­sives- laden car and the other on foot, struck a clus­ter of fu­neral tents packed with mourn­ing fam­i­lies in a Shi­ite neigh­bour­hood in Bagh­dad, the dead­li­est in a string of at­tacks around Iraq that killed at least 96 peo­ple on Satur­day.

The as­saults, the lat­est in a months- long surge of vi­o­lence, are a chill­ing re­minder of in­sur­gents’ de­ter­mi­na­tion to reignite sec­tar­ian con­flict more than a decade af­ter the U. S.- led in­va­sion.

Thou­sands of Iraqis have been killed in vi­o­lent at­tacks in re­cent months — a level of blood­shed not seen since Iraq pulled back from the brink of civil war in 2008 — de­spite ap­peals for re­straint from Shi­ite and Sunni po­lit­i­cal lead­ers.

The at­tack on the fu­neral was one of the largest sin­gle ter­ror­ist as­saults on civil­ians in Iraq in re­cent years. It hap­pened shortly be­fore sun­set in the densely pop­u­lated Shi­ite neigh­bour­hood of Sadr City in north­east­ern Bagh­dad.

One bomber was able to drive up near the tent be­fore det­o­nat­ing his deadly pay­load, and an­other on foot blew him­self up nearby, po­lice said.

The ex­plo­sions set the tents and sev­eral nearby cars on fire, send­ing a tow­er­ing plume of thick black smoke over the city.

“I saw sev­eral charred bod­ies on the ground and tents on fire and also burn­ing cars. Wounded peo­ple were scream­ing in pain,” said Sheik Sattar al- Far­tousi, one of the mourn­ers. “The scene was hor­ri­ble. The fu­neral turned into an in­ferno.”

He said the first blast went off as din­ner was be­ing served in one of sev­eral tents set up for the fu­neral of a mem­ber of the al- Far­tousi tribe. He es­ti­mated more than 500 peo­ple were at­tend­ing the event.

Civil­ian pickup trucks loaded with ca­su­al­ties and am­bu­lances with sirens blar­ing were seen rac­ing from the scene.

Hus­sein Ab­dul- Khaliq, a govern­ment em­ployee who lives near the bomb site, said the tents were packed with mourn­ers when the blasts went off.

He de­scribed see­ing sev­eral life­less bod­ies on the ground and wounded women and chil­dren. The clothes of sev­eral vic­tims were soaked with blood, and fire­fight­ers had to leave the scene to re­fill tanker trucks with wa­ter as they strug­gled to con­tain an im­mense blaze, he said.

“This fu­neral was not a mil­i­tary post or a min­istry build­ing, yet it was still tar­geted,” Ab­dul- Khaliq said. “This shows that no place and no one is safe in Iraq.”

Less than two hours af­ter the fu­neral at­tack, an­other car bomb blast struck a com­mer­cial street in the nearby Ur neigh­bour­hood, killing nine peo­ple and wound­ing 14, ac­cord­ing to po­lice.

Gun­men later shot up a shop that has been dis­cretely sell­ing liquor in the largely Sunni neigh­bour­hood of Aza­miyah, killing four peo­ple, po­lice said.

Ear­lier in the day, in­sur­gents launched a sui­cide at­tack on a po­lice com­mando head­quar­ters in the city of Beiji, an oil re­fin­ing cen­tre 250 kilo­me­tres north of Bagh­dad. Guards man­aged to kill one sui­cide bomber, but the three oth­ers were able to set off their ex­plo­sive belts in­side the com­pound, killing seven po­lice­men and wound­ing 21 oth­ers, po­lice said.

In other vi­o­lence, gun­men shot and killed two prison guards af­ter storm­ing their houses in a vil­lage near the restive city of Mo­sul early Satur­day.

— The As­so­ci­ated Press

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