Car Bomb in Shi­ite Holy City of Kar­bala Kills at Least 56

The Washington Post Sunday - - World News - By Karin Brul­liard and K.I. Ibrahim

BAGH­DAD, April 28 — At least 56 peo­ple were killed Satur­day in the sec­ond ma­jor car bomb­ing in two weeks in the Shi­ite holy city of Kar­bala, po­lice said, and the U.S. mil­i­tary re­ported the deaths of seven sol­diers and two Marines in other at­tacks.

Three of the sol­diers were killed in a road­side bomb­ing south­east of Bagh­dad on Satur­day, and one was killed in a bomb­ing south of the cap­i­tal, the mil­i­tary said. Three sol­diers were wounded in the at­tacks. On Fri­day, three sol­diers and two Marines were killed in the Sunni in­sur­gent strong­hold of An­bar prov­ince, west of Bagh­dad, the mil­i­tary re­ported.

The blast in Kar­bala shook the nearby Imam Ab­bas shrine, one of two famed mosques that at­tract thou­sands of Shi­ite Mus­lim pil­grims each year to the city, about 60 miles south­west of Bagh­dad. Ve­hi­cles burned, en­shroud­ing a nearby mar­ket­place in smoke. Iraqi television showed a man car­ry­ing the charred body of an in­fant above his head as he fled the chaos. At least 158 peo­ple were in­jured, ac­cord­ing to po­lice and health de­part­ment of­fi­cials.

Com­ing two weeks af­ter an­other car bomb­ing killed at least 32 in Kar­bala, the blast Satur­day un­der­scored Sunni in­sur­gents’ abil­ity to carry out spec­tac­u­lar at­tacks de­spite height­ened se­cu­rity. It also raised the prospect of reprisal killings by Shi­ites, whose death squads have stood down as ad­di­tional U.S. troops have flowed into Bagh­dad and other parts of the coun­try.

“Th­ese ex­plo­sions are be­com­ing close to our red lines, which are the shrines,” said Wala’a Al Safi, a spokesman for the shrine.

The bomb­ing of a Shi­ite mosque in the city of Sa­marra in Fe­bru­ary 2006 trig­gered a surge of re­venge at­tacks that have left thou­sands of Iraqis dead.

Af­ter the bomb­ing Satur­day, a throng of an­gry wit­nesses at­tacked po­lice and hurled rocks at the of­fice of the pro­vin­cial gov­er­nor, Aqil alK­haz­ali. Sim­i­lar protests broke out April 14, af­ter an ex­plo­sion tore through a crowded bus sta­tion near the shrine of Imam Hus­sein, the burial place of the grand­son of the prophet Muham­mad.

As they did af­ter the April 14 at­tack, po­lice of­fi­cials em­pha­sized their lim­i­ta­tions and said they did not have the man­power or the nec­es­sary equip­ment to safe­guard the city against bomb­ings. A re­quest to the In­te­rior Min­istry for three ad­di­tional po­lice bat­tal­ions has been ig­nored, po­lice spokesman Mo­hammed Moshawer said.

While U.S. mil­i­tary of­fi­cials say sec­tar­ian killings in Bagh­dad have de­clined un­der a 10-week-old plan to pacify the city, they have ac­knowl­edged an in­crease in high-profile sui­cide bomb­ings. At the same time, Sunni in­sur­gents have stepped up their at­tacks in the prov­inces near Bagh­dad as fight­ers have fled the cap­i­tal.

Sites such as Kar­bala have paid the price. The ma­jor­ity-Shi­ite city has long been the tar­get of sec­tar­ian at­tacks. But un­til this month, it had rarely been the scene of the sort of mas­sive bomb­ings that have plagued Bagh­dad and other cities.

“We have asked the Min­istry of In­te­rior to sup­ply the po­lice forces with mod­ern equip­ment for de­tec­tion of ex­plo­sives, be­cause the city has been tar­geted sev­eral times at con­sid­er­able hu­man cost. But un­for­tu­nately we have not re­ceived an an­swer,” Ab­dul al-Yasery, head of the Kar­bala Pro­vin­cial Coun­cil, said in an in­ter­view on al-Hurra television net­work.

In Bagh­dad, the anti-Amer­i­can Shi­ite cleric Mo­q­tada al-Sadr is­sued a state­ment to par­lia­ment that de­nounced Pres­i­dent Bush for not heed­ing calls by some Iraqis and the U.S. Congress for a troop with­drawal from Iraq.

“Now the Democrats are call­ing on you to with­draw or even to draft a timetable, but you are stub­born. Even the Repub­li­cans, [to] whom you be­long . . . you would not give them a lis­ten­ing ear,” the state­ment said. “What chaos are you say­ing would hap­pen if you with­drew the armies of dark­ness from our land? What chaos that is more and big­ger than what we are in now? In Iraq where blood is shed ev­ery mo­ment, end­lessly, and car bombs and ex­plo­sions res­onate at all times with­out de­ter­rent?”

Vi­o­lence in other parts of Iraq killed at least 33 other peo­ple Satur- day, po­lice said. The dead­li­est at­tack was a sui­cide truck bomb­ing that killed 15 in the town of Hit in An­bar prov­ince, po­lice said. Po­lice found 11 uniden­ti­fied bod­ies, nine of them in Bagh­dad.

In overnight raids in var­i­ous cities, U.S. and Iraqi forces de­tained 19 sus­pected mem­bers of the Sunni in­sur­gent group al-Qaeda in Iraq, the mil­i­tary said. Two of those cap­tured are sus­pected of be­ing con­nected to the April 12 bomb­ing of Bagh­dad’s Sarafiya bridge, a famed land­mark that spanned the Tigris River, the mil­i­tary said.

The nine troop deaths Fri­day and Satur­day brought to 12 the num­ber of ser­vice mem­bers killed over a three-day pe­riod — eight in An­bar prov­ince. Three Marines were killed there dur­ing com­bat op­er­a­tions Thurs­day, the mil­i­tary re­ported Fri­day. Spe­cial correspondent Naseer Nouri in Bagh­dad and Saad Sarhan in Na­jaf con­trib­uted to this re­port.

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