22 killed, 28 hurt in Baghdad car blast

Shattered bits of fruits and vegetables from vendors' pushcarts lay scattered on the street on Tuesday amid pool of blood.

india Updated: Feb 22, 2006 11:04 IST

A car bomb exploded on a street packed with shoppers in a Shiite area of Baghdad, killing 22 people and wounding 28, police said.

It was the deadliest bomb attack in the Iraqi capital in a month.

Terrified children screamed and several women wailed for their dead, crying, "the terrorists, may God punish them".

Shattered bits of fruits and vegetables from vendors' pushcarts lay scattered on the street Tuesday amid pools of blood.

At least eight other people were killed and more than 30 injured on Tuesday in bombings and shootings elsewhere in Baghdad and in attacks on beauty parlors and liquor stores -- symbols of Western influence -- in Baqouba northeast of the capital.

The car bombing occurred shortly before 5 pm in a Shiite corner of Dora, a predominantly Sunni Arab district of Baghdad and one of the most dangerous parts of the city -- rocked almost daily by bombings, ambushes and assassinations.

Maj Gen Mahdi al-Gharawi said the bomb was detonated by remote control and an Iraqi suspected of triggering the device had been arrested.

Claims of early arrests in bombing cases often prove premature.

Another policeman, 1st Lt Maitham Abdul-Razaq, said the blast apparently was aimed at a police patrol but missed its target, killing and maiming shoppers strolling with their families along a street lined with appliance shops and fruit and vegetable stalls.

It was the deadliest bombing in Baghdad since January 19, when a suicide attacker blew himself up in a coffee shop, killing 22 people and injuring 23.

The Dora bombing was the second major attack in as many days against a Shiite target in the capital.

Twelve people died Monday when a suicide bomber detonated an explosives belt on a bus in the heavily Shiite district of Kazimiyah.

At least 969 Iraqis have been killed in war-related violence this year and at least 986 have been wounded, according to an Associated Press count.

However, large-scale attacks against civilians have declined in recent weeks amid widespread public criticism, including from Sunnis clerics and others sympathetic to the Sunni-dominated insurgency.

Some Sunni insurgent groups are believed to be holding back to give Sunni Arab politicians a chance to negotiate concessions from Shiites and Kurds during talks on a new government.

However, talks among parties that won parliamentary seats in the December 15 elections have bogged down because of fundamental differences among Shiite, Sunni Arab and Kurdish politicians.

US officials believe a government capable of winning the trust of all communities is essential so the United States can hand over more security responsibility to the Iraqis and begin sending the 138,000 American troops home this year.

On Tuesday, Mohammed al-Askari, a Defence Ministry spokesman, confirmed that Iraqi soldiers had detained 18 policemen who had seized two men for unknown reasons.

Al-Askari added that one of the men who were held captive by the 18 was a police officer from the mostly Shiite southern city of Kut.

The Interior Ministry has denied running or sanctioning death squads. On Thursday, however, the ministry announced an investigation into alleged death squads after US military officials announced the arrest last month of 22 policemen who were about to kill a Sunni Arab north of Baghdad.

Also Tuesday, British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw lent his voice to international calls for a broad-based government, telling Iraqi leaders in Baghdad that "no party, no ethnic or religious grouping can dominate" the next government.

"It is a crucial moment today for the people of Iraq," Straw told reporters after meeting President Jalal Talabani.

"The international community, particularly those of us who played a part in liberating Iraq, obviously have an interest in a prosperous and stable and democratic Iraq."

Straw's comments followed a blunt warning Monday by US Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad that Iraqis risk losing international support if key ministries end up in the hands of politicians with ties to militias.

"We are not going to invest the resources of the American people and build forces that are run by people who are sectarian" and tied to the militias, Khalilzad said.

A coalition of Shiite Muslim religious parties won 130 of the 275 seats in the new parliament, and Shiite leaders insist their strong showing in the election gives them the right to control key ministries.

A Kurdish alliance won 53 seats and two Sunni Arab blocs together took 55 seats _ a major increase over Sunni representation in the outgoing parliament.

Sunni Arabs have accused the Shiite-run Interior Ministry of kidnapping and murdering Sunni civilians, a charge the ministry denies.

Shiites and Kurds dominate the army and police, while most of the insurgents are Sunni Arabs.

First Published: Feb 22, 2006 11:04 IST