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