Dozens Killed in Iraqi Holy City

Bus Sta­tion Bombed In Kar­bala, 200 Yards From Shrine

The Washington Post Sunday - - The Conflict In Iraq - By Karin Brul­liard and Saad Sarhan

BAGH­DAD, April 14 — A car bomb tore through a packed bus sta­tion and mar­ket­place in one of Iraq’s holi­est Shi­ite cities Satur­day morn­ing, killing at least 32 peo­ple and wound­ing more than 150, po­lice and hospi­tal of­fi­cials said.

The ve­hi­cle’s driver det­o­nated his ex­plo­sives at the main en­trance of the Kar­bala bus sta­tion about 9:15 a.m., turn­ing stands at an ad­ja­cent veg­etable mar­ket into piles of twisted metal and en­gulf­ing nearby ve­hi­cles in flames, po­lice said.

Bloody sur­vivors evac­u­ated the wounded and the dead in rick­ety wooden push­carts. Charred bod­ies were laid un­der blan­kets in the gar­den of Imam Hus­sein Gen­eral Hospi­tal af­ter its small morgue over­flowed, a physi­cian said.

At least 32 peo­ple were killed and 158 were wounded, said Khalid Ad­nan, di­rec­tor of the hospi­tal. Most of the wounded were in crit­i­cal con­di­tion, he said. A po­lice spokesman put the death toll at 41, in­clud­ing many women and chil­dren.

Satur­day’s blast took place 200 yards from the shrine of Imam Hus­sein, burial place of the grand­son of the prophet Muham­mad. It is one of the most sa­cred sites for Shi­ite Mus­lims and a pop­u­lar des­ti­na­tion for many Iraqi and Ira­nian pil­grims, some of whom were among the dead, of­fi­cials said.

Hun­dreds of Shi­ites were killed as they trav­eled to and from Kar­bala dur­ing an an­nual pil­grim­age last month. But the city it­self, about 60 miles south­west of Bagh­dad, has rarely been the tar­get of bomb­ings.

Af­ter Satur­day’s ex­plo­sion, the scene quickly de­scended fur­ther into chaos as an­gry sur­vivors at­tacked po­lice of­fi­cers and ac­cused them of fail­ing to pro­tect the area, said Aqil al-Khaz­ali, gov­er­nor of Kar­bala prov­ince. Po­lice fired shots into the air to dis­perse the crowd, then turned their guns on the peo­ple, killing an un­known num­ber of civil­ians, Khaz­ali said.

Husam al-Mous­sawi, a me­dia rep­re­sen­ta­tive for fire­brand Shi­ite cleric Mo­q­tada al-Sadr, said that two peo­ple were killed by the gun­fire and that two po­lice cars were set afire.

Television re­ports said no po­lice were in the area when the bomb went off. Mem­bers of the Mahdi Army, a mili­tia loyal to Sadr, ini­tially helped evac­u­ate bod­ies and block cars but backed away when au­thor­i­ties ar­rived, wit­nesses and Mous­sawi said.

The sit­u­a­tion calmed when Iraqi sol­diers ar­rived, Khaz­ali said. Po­lice im­posed an in­def­i­nite cur­few to pre­vent more protests and clashes, ac­cord­ing to Kar­bala po­lice spokesman Rah­man Imsha­her.

“Kar­bala is not pro­tected by the po­lice; it is only pro­tected by Imam Hus­sein and God,” said taxi driver Aad Ali, 42, who re­counted that he was driv­ing a few blocks from the blast site when the bomb went off. Po­lice fre­quently stop him but never search his car, he said: “They are not ca­pa­ble of fight­ing ter­ror­ists.”

Imsha­her said there are po­lice pa­trols but no check­points in the area of the bus sta­tion, so streets are open for pil­grims head­ing to the shrine. He said po­lice of­fi­cials in Kar­bala, a city of about 600,000, re­cently asked Iraq’s In­te­rior Min­istry for more of­fi­cers. The city has about 9,000 of­fi­cers on its force and wants at least 4,000 more, he said.

“The peo­ple have a right to blame us and feel dis­ap­pointed,” Imsha­her said. “We failed in front of our God and our peo­ple. And the rea­son is that we do not have enough fight­ers and equip­ment.”

Ab­dul Ka­reem al-Ki­nani, a spokesman for the In­te­rior Min­istry, said the agency had re­ceived no such re­quest. Kar­bala’s po­lice force is ad­e­quate, he said.

Qas­sim Ab­dul Sada, who runs a park­ing lot 400 yards from the bus sta­tion, said he feared the blast would dev­as­tate lo­cal busi­nesses by keep­ing pil­grims away. “It is a crime to de­stroy the econ­omy of this safe, stable and quiet city,” he said. “The lapse of the se­cu­rity forces is clear. The lapse is as big as the dis­tance be­tween the earth and the sky.”

In Bagh­dad, a car bomb ex­ploded on the Jadriyah bridge and killed 10 peo­ple but did no se­ri­ous dam­age to the struc­ture, po­lice said. It was the sec­ond bomb­ing in two days to tar- get a Tigris River span in the cap­i­tal. Thurs­day, a car bomb sev­ered the Sarafiya bridge, one of the city’s most beloved land­marks, and killed 11 peo­ple.

In Kirkuk, four would-be sui­cide at­tack­ers were killed when an ex­plo­sives belt worn by one of them in­ad­ver­tently det­o­nated as they rode in a car, po­lice said.

U.S. sol­diers cap­tured 17 sus­pected ter­ror­ists, in­clud­ing a leader of the group al-Qaeda in Iraq, dur­ing raids Satur­day morn­ing just north of Bagh­dad, the mil­i­tary said. Bri­tish forces killed eight sus­pected in­sur­gents as they planted road­side bombs near the south­ern city of Basra, the Bri­tish mil­i­tary said in a state­ment.

Twenty-one uniden­ti­fied bod­ies were found across Iraq on Satur­day, po­lice said. Sarhan re­ported from Na­jaf. Spe­cial correspondent Naseer Nouri in Bagh­dad con­trib­uted to this re­port.

BY ALAA AL-MARJANI — AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

The bomb det­o­nated at the main bus sta­tion in Kar­bala, near a Shi­ite shrine that is the burial site of Imam Hus­sein, grand­son of the prophet Muham­mad.

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