Thursday, November 23, 2006

Iraq continues to spiral out of control - 160 dead in coordinated car bombings

Iraq continues to bleed with no end in sight.

Today, a series of coordinated car bombings ripped through crowded intersections and marketplaces in the Shiite district of Sadr City, killing at least 160 people and wounding 206.

The coordinated bombings followed a two-hour siege by dozens of Sunni gunmen against the headquarters of the Shiite-run Health Ministry in northeastern Baghdad, about three miles west of Sadr City. The gunmen, shooting from nearby buildings and surrounding streets, hit the ministry with mortar shells and automatic weapons fire. They were only driven off when Iraqi troops and American military helicopters arrived.

The Shiites of course struck back...though with death squads fully operational from both the Mahdi Army and the Badr Force as well as the Sunnnis, figuring out who hit who first is impossible. The Shiite militias fired about a dozen mortar shells into the predominantly Sunni Arab neighborhood of Adhamiya in northern Baghdad, wounding at least 10 people. Five more mortar shells were aimed at the former Mother of All Battles Mosque commissioned by Saddam Hussein in Ghazaliya, according to the mosque’s imam, Sheik Mahmoud al-Sumaidaie.

What passes for Iraq's Political leaders held an emergency meeting after the attacks and to broadcast an appeal for calm and national unity.

"In this painful tragedy, I call on everybody to practice self-restraint and stay calm," Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki said in a separate televised address. "I hope that all political and civic powers will stand together to protect the citizens from criminal action."

The government immediately imposed an indefinite curfew on Baghdad, banning all vehicles and pedestrians from the streets, and closed Baghdad International Airport as well as the airport and seaport in the southern city of Basra. The Iraqi Army is supposedly on high alert, with checkpoints throughout the city and a cordon around Sadr City.

The bombings today will probably harden attitudes on both sides.

"We blame the government for the attacks," said Said Adel al-Nuri, a spokesman for Shiite cleric and Mahdi Army leader Moqtada al-Sadr. "We have no trust in the government or in the Americans. We have completely lost faith in the government."

According to the Iraqi police, the Sadr City attacks today began when a suicide car bomber blew himself up at about 3:15 p.m. at a checkpoint leading into the area. That was obviously a signal, since the initial blast was followed in quick succession by that of two other suicide car bombers and two unattended car bombs, which exploded at different locations along a main avenue crowded with commuters and shoppers.

The car bombings set off dozens of other vehicles in the crowded streets, and scattered burnt and and mangled corpses and body parts through the air. Panicky crowds clawed through the wreckage, searching for survivors and pulling bloody bodies out of vehicles and buildings.

Look for this to get worse before it gets better...if it ever does.

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