Female suicide bomber kills two at Jerusalem supermarket

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An 18­year­old female suicide bomber detonated explosives at the entrance to a Jerusalem supermarket this afternoon, killing herself and two other people, and injuring about 20 people.

The blast at a strip mall in Kiryat Yovel, a working class Jewish neighborhood in southeastern part of the city, sprayed glass and debris onto the sidewalk and brought police and rescue workers rushing to the bloody scene.

Witnesses said three torn bodies lay near the market entrance in a heap of debris: black soot from bags of charcoal that were out for sale and pools of white paint that sprayed from a destroyed store display of buckets of house paint. Flowers a vendor had been selling were strewn in front of the SuperSol chain supermarket.

A man covered in the white paint sat on the steps outside the shopping center, crying and hugging two small children.

Police spokesman Gil Kleiman said the teenage bomber set off her explosives as a security guard attempted to keep her out of the store. The security guard's efforts "saved a large number of lives," Kleiman said.

The bomber and two people, a man and a woman, were killed, Kleiman said. He wouldn't say if the security guard was among the dead.

Hanna Cohen, a witness who spoke to Israel Radio, said she was about to enter the store when there was "was a huge blast, and I saw people flying all around, arms and legs."

Avraham Ben­Yakov, a 38­year­old doctor, went to the store with his wife to do some weekend shopping. Ben­Yakov remembered telling the security guard as they entered that he was doing a good, important job.

Just a few steps behind the doctor, the woman bomber approached the guard.

"I saw a very intense explosion with dark smoke," Ben­Yakov said. "People started running, crying." Rushing to help the wounded, Ben­Yakov found the young security guard barely breathing, both of his legs severed. "He lost all of the blood," he said.

The bomber's body was torn to pieces.

As explosives experts went through the wreckage, they found an unexploded mortar shell that the bomber had carried with her.

The Al Aqsa Brigades, a militia linked to Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat's Fatah movement, claimed responsibility in a phone call to The Associated Press, and identified the bomber as Ayat Akhras from the Dheisheh refugee camp in Bethlehem.