Dead and injured as rockets explode in Baghdad

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The Independent Online

Eight missiles exploded in the Iraqi capital Baghdad before dawn on Saturday, killing a child and wounding four other civilians, the official Iraqi News Agency reported.

Eight missiles exploded in the Iraqi capital Baghdad before dawn on Saturday, killing a child and wounding four other civilians, the official Iraqi News Agency reported.

The attack is the second bombardment of Baghdad this month and the third this year. Iraq blamed the attack on Iran, as it had with the earlier ones.

But an Iraqi dissident group, the Supreme Coucil for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, issued statements in London and Syria saying the attack was carried out by its affiliate, the Iraqi National Islamic Resistance.

The missiles struck two houses in the Karadat Mariam district of west Baghdad, killing 3-year-old Zahra Mohammed Hammeed.

"There was lightning first, then an explosion in the bedroom," said Hussein Mohammed, 50, Zahra's uncle who lives next door.

"Dust was all over and we could not see anything first. Then we found Zahra who was already dead while her father, mother and aunts, Hana and Nawal, were injured," said Mohammed who was the first to enter Zahra's home after the explosion.

Zahra's relatives were treated in hospital for moderate to light wounds and released.

Mohammed said most of the missiles fell behind Zahra's house, exploding in an open area and causing no casualties. But the missile that killed Zahra landed next to her bed and destroyed the house. Mohammed's house was lightly damaged.

In Damascus, Syria, the Supreme Coucil for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq said the assailants fired nine Katyusha rockets at the offices of the presidential palace "in retaliation for the great violations of the Iraqi people by the repressive Iraqi regime."

In London, the council's Hamid al-Bayati said five rockets were fired at the presidential palace and four med "tens" of people were killed in the attack.

The Iraqi News Agency quoted an unidentified Interior Ministry official as blaming Iran for the 12:35 a.m. (2035 GMT) attack.

"Agents of the Iranian government have committed another vicious crime to be added to their criminal record," the official said.

"The Iraqi government holds the Iranian regime fully responsible for these vicious acts and it will pay for these crimes," the official added.

There was no immediate response from the Iranian government.

"Eight 122 mm missiles were fired from a rocket launcher from a distance to hit a residential area in al-Karkh," the ministry official told the agency. Al-Karkh is the part of Baghdad on the western bank of the Tigris River.

"Equipment used for the attack was found later," the official added. He did not say how far from Baghdad the missiles were launched.

On May 1, rockets exploded in the Baladiyat district of Baghdad, wounding eight people, at about the same time as a mortar attack on police headquarters in Tehran, Iran. The Iranian rebel group, Mujahedeen Khalq, which is based in Iraq, claimed responsibility for the Tehran attack that wounded six people.

On March 22, a mortar attack on Baladiyat killed four people and injured 38.

Iraq and Iran fought an eight-year war that ended with a U.N.-brokered cease-fire in 1988. The two Muslim neighbors never signed a peace treaty and their relations since the end of the war have remained tense. Each harbors dissident groups fighting the other's government.

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