Market bombing is deadliest so far

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The Independent Online

The Iraqi government yesterday raised its estimate of the death toll in a truck bombing in the northern town of Tal Afar on Tuesday to 152, making it the deadliest single bombing of the four-year-old war.

The explosion, in a Shia area, wounded another 347 people and destroyed 100 homes. A few hours later, Shia police and gunmen made reprisal attacks in a Sunni area of the town. Between 50 and 70 men were shot dead.

The slaughter in Tal Afar was the worst in a wave of bombings, blamed on al-Qa'ida in Iraq, which killed 400 people in Shia areas in the past week. The attacks were doubly damaging to the US administration: not only did they appear to show the ability of insurgents to attack at will, undermining the gains of the security crackdown in Baghdad, but Tal Afar had been regarded as a model for the "surge" operation in the capital.

A year ago President George Bush praised the achievement of US forces in Tal Afar, where an inspirational commander drove insurgents out and threw a security cordon around the town. This led to a dramatic fall in attacks, but violence resumed once US troops withdrew. The lessons learned there have been applied to the "clear, control and hold" operation in Baghdad and neighbouring areas, for which the US is sending in nearly 30,000 extra troops.

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