Iraqi suicide bombers kill dozens in show of defiance against crackdown

Click to follow
The Independent Online

Insurgents determined to flout an Iraqi-led security offensive in Baghdad put on a bloody show of defiance with a dual suicide attack which left up to 30 people dead and more than 100 injured.

Insurgents determined to flout an Iraqi-led security offensive in Baghdad put on a bloody show of defiance with a dual suicide attack which left up to 30 people dead and more than 100 injured.

The attacks, carried out in the predominantly Shia town of Hillah, south of Baghdad, came on the second day of Operation Lightning, the biggest security sweep in the capital since the war ended in 2003.

Two insurgents loaded with explosives mingled with a crowd of Iraqi policemen protesting against a decision to disband their unit. They staggered their attacks to maximise the number of deaths.

One of the bombers blew himself up in the midst of the 500-strong crowd shortly before 9am, causing chaos in the street outside the mayor's office. A minute later and 100 yards further along the road, his comrade detonated his charge, striking many of those running from the first blast.

"I just saw a ball of fire and flying pieces of flesh," one policeman, Jiwad Kadhim Hamid, said. "After that, confused policemen started firing into the air."

The explosions, which were claimed later by al-Qa'ida on an internet website, blew out the windows of the mayor's office, a court house and a school, layering the road with broken glass and rubble.

The scene of the attacks, covered in pools of blood and strewn with the discarded shoes and clothes of the victims, was immediately cordoned off by police.

"We have 27 people killed and 128 wounded," an interior ministry spokesman said. Other sources spoke of at least 30 deaths. An exact count was difficult to ascertain, as many of the bodies were dismembered.

Yesterday's attacks came soon after a series of suicide bombings in and around Baghdad killed at least 16 people on Sunday night, in what was assumed to be a direct response to the launching of Operation Lightning on Thursday.

The security sweep, intended to make Baghdad immune to insurgent attacks, involves dividing the city into sectors and setting up hundreds of checkpoints in order to restrict the movements of insurgents.

Large numbers of Iraqi police, backed up by US forces, spent yesterday fighting with insurgents, searching the streets of Baghdad for rebels and making arrests.

Among the security plan's chief critics is a leading Sunni politician, Mohsen Abdul-Hamid, who claims it will trample on ordinary people's rights. Dr Abdul-Hamid, leader of the Iraqi Islamic Party, was briefly arrested yesterday and detained by US forces, who then admitted they had made a mistake and released him. The Iraqi government immediately condemned the error and said it hoped "to find those responsible for planting lies [about him]".

But the arrest had already generated anger in Sunni Muslim circles. "This is a provocative and foolish act," said the secretary general of the Islamic Party, Ayad al-Samarei.

¿ Iraq's al-Qa'ida leader, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, told Osama bin Laden in an audio recording attributed to him that he had suffered only "minor" wounds, denying reports that he was seriously injured when a US missile hit his convoy three weeks ago.

"I think news has reached your ears through the media that I was seriously wounded ... I would like to assure you and assure Muslims that these are baseless rumours and that my wounds are minor," the voice on the recording said. "I am now with the help of God enjoying good health among my brothers and my people in Iraq." The authenticity of the internet recording could not be verified.

Comments