- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 30, 2004

BAGHDAD — Terrorists struck at a U.S. ribbon-cutting ceremony in the capital with multiple bombs yesterday, killing seven adults and 35 children as they gathered around American soldiers distributing candy.

Many more children were among the scores of wounded in just one of several attacks across the country. Another attack west of Baghdad killed an American soldier.

“This is such ugliness,” said warehouse worker Ahmad Ali, 30, as he stood apart from an increasingly restless crowd rummaging through the wreckage. “This is wrong. Resistance is a must for every occupied country. But this is not resistance. This is terrorism.”

Another man, who declined to give his name, just stared at purple and pink children’s bicycles grafted onto the remnants of the exploded cars. “The children who were on these bicycles,” he said as the sentence trailed off. “Why? Why?”

U.S. officials said 10 American soldiers were wounded, two of them critically, in the explosion during a ribbon-cutting ceremony for a new sewer pumping station built by Americans.

“The attacks today are clearly those of a desperate enemy,” said Lt. Col. James Hutton, a 1st Cavalry Division spokesman. “There is no conceivable justification for attacking innocent Iraqi citizens who were celebrating the opening of a water pump station.”

Interior Ministry spokesman Col. Adnan Abdul-Rahman said a car bomb and an explosive device planted in the road detonated in quick succession at the site of the celebration. Other reports said another explosion took place later some distance away.

Other violence continued throughout Iraq. A U.S. soldier and several Iraqi police were killed when a car bomb detonated at a checkpoint near Abu Ghraib, west of Baghdad.

The U.S. conducted morning air strikes on suspected militant safe houses in the restive western town of Fallujah, killing at least four Iraqis, according to hospital officials.

In the northern Iraqi city of Tal Afar, scene of a recent U.S. offensive, a car bomb aimed at security forces killed at least four and wounded 16, officials said.

An Arab news channel also aired a new video showing 10 hostages — six Iraqis, two Lebanese and two Indonesians — recently seized by a group that calls itself the Islamic Army in Iraq.

Several explosions, likely from rockets and mortars, were heard near the heavily fortified international zone in central Baghdad where U.S. officials and contractors live and work.

At Yarmouk Hospital, which bore the brunt of the dead and wounded from the pumping-station attack, some of the children cried, others refused to speak, while others shivered in shock at the day’s horror. Still others lay lifeless in the hospital’s morgue.

Ali Abdul Jabbar al-Fathri, 10, suffered shrapnel wounds on his stomach, hand and thigh. He refused to speak but his eyes darted alertly around the hospital room, filled with other battle-scarred children.

“In the beginning when we brought him to the hospital, he was able to talk,” said Hossein al-Fathri, his cousin. “But after 15 minutes, he couldn’t talk.”

He condemned the suicide bombers. “They are criminals and terrorists, and they are unbelievers, also.”

An orderly pushed a bed carrying a small dead boy, his head and torso wrapped in a clean white sheet, his lifeless hand resting on his heart.

Abdul-Rahman al-Jabouri, 11, shrieked in pain, his naked body covered only in bandages and intravenous tubes. He had approached the U.S. soldiers at the ribbon cutting. They were giving out candy, and jostling playfully with the Iraqi children, who were enjoying their last hoopla before school begins tomorrow. The bomb ripped into his torso and limbs. His relatives were overcome with grief and rage.

“The Americans knew this was going to happen,” said Hassan al-Jabouri, a relative. “That’s why they brought so many children there.”

Hassan al-Makhsousi, 13, was stoic. His father at his side, he mustered up the strength to tell his story. He was going shopping, getting a Psoda and some chocolates. He noticed the U.S. soldiers joking with the neighborhood kids, kicking around a soccer ball.

The explosions came in quick succession. Shrapnel from the first bomb struck him in the shoulder and the leg, and he was able to limp to safety. He estimated that the bomb killed 10 of his friends. They were neighborhood children, his soccer pals and his best friend, Ahmad, with whom he was about to start the seventh grade tomorrow.

“I cannot feel anything now,” he said.

In the nearby morgue, a lifeless little girl’s hand protruded from beneath a bloodied white blanket, her light brown hair caked in blood.

In the hospital corridors, mothers, fathers, aunts and uncles wandered, wept and chain-smoked cheap cigarettes.

A man, told his son had just died, cried uncontrollably, his shoulders heaving. A woman, whose grandson had been wounded, tried to console him. “You’re scaring the children,” she told him. Other relatives escorted him away.

Burnt pieces of metal and bits of human flesh littered the scene hours after the triple car bombings.

Surveillance helicopters scanned the area. U.S. soldiers of the Army’s 1st Cavalry Division and Iraqis had gathered to celebrate the inauguration of a sewage pump, part of a $40 million project to rebuild the sewer system throughout the city’s al-Rashid district, said a military official.

The army’s goodwill gesture would have pumped sewage out of 10 neighborhoods surrounding the station.

The U.S. army and the Iraqi national guard had rented some chairs and invited local residents. The explosions came as they were pulling out to head back to their base.

Witnesses said the first explosion was caused by a “Brazili,” the nickname for Baghdad’s ubiquitous Brazilian-made Volkswagen hatchbacks. It careened right at the children.

A second explosion struck 10 minutes later as neighbors tended to the wounded. A third struck a quarter mile away some time later.

Witnesses describe gunfire after the explosions. “I was afraid, really afraid,” said Kamel Mohammad, a 30-year-old guard at a nearby parking lot who suffered a slight shrapnel wound to his leg in the first blast.

He blamed the interim government. “Where is the security?” he said. “Where are the promises they made? A guy can’t even be safe in his own house.”

Angry young men congregated at the site, as they do at many car bombings in the capital. They screamed insults at President Bush and Iraqi Prime Minister Iyad Allawi.

“The bombers are fighting the Americans,” said Faoud Rassool, a businessman. “If the Americans weren’t here none of this would have happened. These problems will not ease up unless the Americans leave.”

One man screamed, “The Americans want to kill us. They want to reduce Iraq to 10 million people.”

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