At least 90 killed on day marking Golden Mosque attack

From: http://edition.cnn.com/2007/WORLD/meast/02/12/iraq.main/index.html

Feb 12, 2007

A man searches for his son after the market bombing in Baghdad on Monday.

BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- Five explosions ripped through central Baghdad on Monday, killing at least 90 people, amid memorials marking last year's attack on a revered Shiite shrine in Samarra, police said.

More than 190 people were wounded in the bombings, sandwiched around a commemoration on the anniversary of the attack on Al-Askariya Mosque, also known as the Golden Mosque.

The February 2006 bombing is blamed for sparking an eruption of sectarian violence between Shiite and Sunni Muslims. It has been a year since the attack, according to the Islamic calendar.

In the deadliest attack, three car bombs exploded at the Shorja market, killing at least 79 people and wounding 170 others, police said. The blasts sent dense, black smoke rising hundreds of feet into the midday air.

The explosions destroyed shops and stalls at the market, according to The Associated Press. Inside the warehouse-like building, clothing mannequins were laying in thick pools of blood, AP reported.

Witnesses said buildings were on fire and emergency workers and firefighters responded.

Iraq's Interior Ministry accused al Qaeda in Iraq of responsibility in the attack and detained three people, including two foreigners and an Iraqi.

In another attack Monday, a roadside bomb ignited in the Bab al-Sharji commercial district minutes before the commemoration began, killing nine and wounding more than 20, police said.

Also Monday, two people were killed and three wounded when a roadside bomb hit a civilian car in northern Baghdad's Qahira neighborhood, police said.

To mark the Samarra anniversary, Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki called on Iraqis in the nation's mosques to chant "God is great," and "to ring bells in all the churches," according to AP.

Iraq's most powerful Shiite cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani said in a statement that last year's attack "pushed the country into blind violence, in which tens of thousands of innocents were killed," AP reported.

Al-Sistani urged the government to rebuild the damaged shrine, which has been secured by authorities since the February 22 attack, according to AP.

The ayatollah also called for restraint from people who are marking the anniversary, AP reported.

Sunni, Shiite clerics meet

The attacks Monday came as Sunni and Shiite clerics gathered in the holy city of Najaf for a conference to call for national unity. They accused militants of wanting to split Iraq and drive it into a civil war.

The conference was being held in Fatmiya Shiite mosque.

Baghdad marketplaces have been frequent targets for insurgents, including attacks on markets this month in Baghdad and Hilla, in Babil province south of the capital.

On February 3, a suicide truck bombing killed 128 civilians at a market in Baghdad's Sedriya district. At least 73 civilians were killed February 1 in simultaneous suicide bombings at a Hilla market.

Monday's attacks came a day after al-Maliki announced plans to increase security in the capital this week.

Iraqi army and police forces will close down 10 areas of Baghdad, al-Maliki said Sunday, to root out terrorists and their weapons and to secure homes and buildings once they're vacated.

Al-Maliki expressed confidence in the security plan, which will be supported by U.S. forces, and repeated the operation will deal with all outlaws in the same manner, regardless of their affiliation.

Some observers have predicted that followers of Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr and his Mehdi Army militia would be overlooked in the security crackdown. The al-Sadr movement has backed al-Maliki, but his militia has been blamed for much of the sectarian violence in Iraq.

Other developments

  • Five people were killed Monday in attacks in Iraq's restive Diyala province, police told CNN. Four people were killed in a car bombing in Mandali, near the Iranian border. And in Muqdadiya, one person was killed and two were wounded when gunmen attacked a civilian car.
  • The Iraqi High Tribunal on Monday sentenced former Iraqi vice president Taha Yassin Ramadan to death by hanging in the Dujail case, according to a source close to the proceeding. Ramadan originally had been sentenced to life in prison in the case but the tribunal's appeals chamber said the original sentence was too lenient and ordered the court to resentence him. In 1982, 148 men and boys were killed in Dujail, Iraq, after an assassination attempt on Saddam Hussein. (Full story (http://edition.cnn.com/2007/WORLD/meast/02/12/iraq.hanging/))
  • Calling them "all lies," an Iranian Embassy official Monday denied U.S. allegations that an elite Iranian force under the command of Iran's supreme leader is behind bombings that have killed coalition forces in Iraq. (Full story (http://edition.cnn.com/2007/WORLD/meast/02/12/us.iran/index.html))
  • A U.S. soldier died in Iraq in a noncombat-related incident Sunday, the U.S. military said Monday. The number of U.S. military deaths stands at 3,116 in the Iraq war. Seven American civilian contractors of the military also have died in the conflict.