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More than 200 dead in Baghdad’s deadliest day of bombings
Sectarian warfare in Iraq further escalated on Thursday after more than 200 people died and at least 250 were wounded in Baghdad, in the deadliest single day of attacks since the US invasion in 2003.
A coordinated series of car bombs ripped through Sadr City, creating havoc in crowded marketplaces and intersections of the working class Shiite suburb, which is the stronghold of Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr and his militia—the Mahdi Army. According to police, the first suicide bomber struck at around 3.15 p.m. at a checkpoint leading to the area. Two other suicide car bombs and two unattended car bombs followed in rapid succession. Mortar shells also struck the area.
“The car bombings destroyed dozens of other vehicles, scattered charred and mangled bodies and sent flames and thick pillars of smoke into the air. Frenzied crowds clawed through the wreckage, pulling bloodied bodies from trapped vehicles and taking them away in wooden carts,” the New York Times reported. “Residents and Shiite militiamen flooded the streets, firing assault rifles into the air, shouting epithets against Sunni Arabs, the American authorities and the Iraq government, and vowing revenge.”
The carnage in Sadr City followed an attack on the Health Ministry earlier the same day. Several mortar rounds hit the building followed by fire from gunmen stationed on the tops of nearby buildings. Hundreds of employees were kept pinned down as security guards attempted to keep the attackers at bay. Health Minister Ali al-Shemari is one of al-Sadr’s supporters and the ministry is widely regarded as a Sadrist bastion.
In a live interview on Iraqi TV, Deputy Health Minister Hakim Zamili accused Iraqi soldiers of doing nothing to stop the attack. “We can see the terrorists through the windows, moving freely. Nobody is stopping them,” he said. A spokesman Qasim Yahia Allawi later accused the Iraqi army of not responding to calls for assistance during the three-hour siege. The attackers only dispersed after US helicopters finally reached the area.