iraq bombing vic 298.88.
(photo credit: AP)
A suicide bomber detonated a truck full of explosives in the crowded outdoor market of a Shi'ite farming town north of Baghdad on Saturday, levelling houses and stores and killing more than 100 people, officials said.
The blast - hours after a smaller suicide bombing in another Shi'ite village killed more than 20 - suggested Sunni militants are regrouping to launch attacks in regions further away from Baghdad where security is thinner, beyond the edges of a three-week old US offensive on the capital's northern flank.
The US military on Saturday also reported that eight American servicemembers were killed in fighting in Baghdad and western Anbar province over two days, reflecting the increased US death toll that has come with the new offensives. A British soldier was killed in fighting with Shi'ite militias overnight in the southern city of Basra.
Saturday's blast ripped through the market in Armili at around 8:30 am, as crowds had gathered for morning shopping. The explosion destroyed old mud-brick houses and set cars on fire. Victims had to be transported in farmers' pickup trucks to the nearest health facility, in Tuz Khormato, 45 kilometers to the north.
Authorities and residents spent hours digging bodies out of the rubble of two dozen shops and houses, police said. Accounts of the ftoll varied, hampered by the difficulty of the search and the farming town's remote location.
Deputy governor of Salahuddin province Abdullah Jabara, told state-run Iraqiya television that 115 died - 70 percent of them women, children and elderly. He blamed al-Qaida for the attack.
Police Col. Sherzad Abdullah, an officer in the Tuz Khormato police, also told the Associated Press that 115 were killed and some 200 wounded. Tuz Khormato's police chief, Col. Abbas Mohammed Amin, out the toll at 150 dead.
At the market, "I saw destruction everywhere, dozens of cars destroyed, about 15 shops and many houses, even some more than 700 meters away," said Haitham Yalman, whose daughter and sister were wounded.
Weeping and screaming relatives search frantically for word of loved ones at Tuz Khormato's hospital. Ali Hussein read the names of victims being moved further north to Kirkuk for treatment. "My cousin has died in the explosion but I don't know the fate of my brother," he said in tears.
Armirli, 165 kilometers north of Baghdad, is a town of 26,000, mostly Shi'ites from Iraq's Turkoman ethnic minority. Residents said tensions were constantly high with Sunni Arabs who dominate the villages of the surrounding countryside. Iraqi security presence is scant in the region, at a remote corner of Salahuddin province near the border with neighboring Diyala province.
The night before, a suicide bomber detonated a boobytrapped car at around 9:30 pm at a funeral being held in the Shi'ite Kurdish village of Zargosh, in the Sadiya region of Diyala province about 125 kilometers northeast of Baghdad, police said.
The blast killed 22 people and wounded 17 others, said the head of Diyala provincial council, Ibrahim Bajilan, and a police official in the provincial capital of Baqouba, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to the press. The village is home to about 30 Kurdish families who had been expelled under Saddam Hussein's rule and returned after his fall.
In Baghdad - where attacks have fallen in recent weeks - a suicide bomber detonated an explosives-packed minibus by an Iraqi army patrol in the eastern Zayouna district Saturday, killing five soldiers and a civilian, police said.
The US military in Iraq, beefed up by new deployments this year, is conducting an intensified security crackdown in the capital aimed at bringing calm to Baghdad. At the same time, US forces are waging offensives south of Baghdad and to the north, around Baqouba, aiming to uproot al-Qaida fighters and other Sunni insurgents who use the areas as staging ground for attacks in the capital.
American commanders acknowledge many insurgent leaders fled Baqouba, 60 kilometers northeast of Baghdad, just ahead of the US assault there.
The new back-to-back bombings suggest the militants have moved a step further frm the capital, but are still are able to unleash devastating attacks.
"Because of the recent American military operations, terrorists found a good hideout in Salahuddin province, especially in the outskirts areas in which there isn't enough number of military forces there," said Ahmed al-Jubouri, an aide of the province's governor.
The US military on Saturday said four soldiers were killed a day earlier in two roadside bomb attacks on their patrols in Baghdad. soldier and an Iraqi interpreter were killed Friday when an explosively formed penetrator exploded near their patrol in southeastern Baghdad. Explosively formed penetrators are high-tech bombs that the US believes are provided by Iran, a charge denied by Tehran.
On Thursday, two Marines were killed in western Anbar province and a soldier died in Baghdad, the latest military statement said.
Another soldier died Friday of non battle-related cause and his death is under investigation, the military said without giving further details. The deaths bring to 3,599 the number of members of the US military who have died since the beginning of the Iraq war in March 2003, according to an Associated Press count.
In the far south of Iraq, British troops came under heavy attack by militants in Basra, killing one soldier and wounding three, the British military said Saturday.
The troops were hit by bombs, rocket-propelled grenades and small arms during an arrest operation in the city before dawn, the military said in a statement. Coalition aircraft destroyed roadside bombs as the British soldiers were extracted from the city, it said.
Britain has withdrawn hundreds of troops from Iraq, leaving a force of around 5,500 based mainly on the fringes of Basra, Iraq's second-largest city, 550 kilometers southeast of Baghdad. British bases come under frequent mortar attacks from Shi'ite militias. The US currently has about 155,000 troops in Iraq.