Baghdad bomb kills 35 in poor Shi'ite district

BAGHDAD Wed May 20, 2009 3:59pm EDT

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BAGHDAD (Reuters) - A bomb in a parked car ripped through the poor mostly Shi'ite district of Shula in northwest Baghdad on Wednesday, killing 35 people and wounding 72 others near a popular restaurant, police said.

The U.S. military said 13 people were killed, and the director of Baghdad's hospitals put the death toll at 26 with 38 wounded, adding that women and children were among those caught in the blast.

"The attackers had no military target. They were all civilians, and this is common. This shows the cowardice of the attackers, because targeting civilians is not bravery," said Jalil al-Shimmari, director of hospitals in the Baghdad district in which Shula lies.

Shula was also targeted by bombers on December 25 last year, killing four people.

Al Qaeda and other Sunni Islamist groups consider Shi'ites heretics and have long targeted Shi'ite areas and festivals in Iraq. The bombing of the Shi'ite Askari shrine in 2006 unleashed a wave of sectarian bloodletting that subsided only last year.

Security has broadly improved since the height of the sectarian violence but a rash of bombings in April made it the deadliest month for civilians since November.

The last large-scale bomb attack in Iraq was on April 29, when 51 people were killed in twin car bomb attacks in the Shi'ite Sadr City district of Baghdad.

The recent attacks raise questions about whether Iraq can avoid sliding back into greater bloodshed as an untested military prepares to take greater security responsibility and U.S. troops prepare for a full withdrawal by the end of 2011.

Iraqi security forces on Monday aired a video tape of a what they said was the captured leader of the so-called Islamic State of Iraq, an al Qaeda-linked organization blamed for years of bloodshed in the country, but the group has denied the claim.

(Reporting by Mohammed Abbas, additional reporting by Missy Ryan: Editing by Jon Boyle)

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