- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 13, 2005

BAGHDAD — Tiny plastic sandals, some tattered and stained with blood, lay in a pile near a child’s crushed bicycle. Mothers wailed and beat themselves after a suicide bomber killed 18 children and teenagers getting candy and toys from American soldiers.

One of the soldiers was among the up to 27 people killed in the blast yesterday in an impoverished Shi’ite Muslim neighborhood. At least 70 persons, including a newborn and three U.S. soldiers, were wounded.

Terrified parents who heard the explosion raced from their homes to the discover the worst — children’s mangled, bloodied bodies strewn on the street.

Twelve of the dead were 13 or younger, and six were 14 to 17, said police Lt. Mohammed Jassim Jabr. Among the wounded was 4-day-old Miriam Jabber, cut slightly by flying glass and debris.

“There were some American troops blocking the highway when a U.S. Humvee came near a gathering of children,” said Karim Shukir, 42. The troops began handing out candy and smiley-face key chains.

“Suddenly, a speeding car bomb … struck both the Humvee and the children,” Mr. Shukir said.

An elderly woman dressed in black beat her chest in front of her house. Others meandered about in the broiling heat, seeming dazed.

The slaughter of so many Shi’ite children is likely to intensify tensions between the majority Shi’ites — who dominate the government — and the minority Sunni Arabs, the foundation of the insurgency.

At Kindi hospital, where many victims were taken, a distraught mother swathed in black sat cross-legged outside the operating room. “May God curse the mujahedeen and their leader,” she cried, referring to the insurgents as she pounded her head with her fists in grief.

“The car bomber made a deliberate decision to attack one of our vehicles as the soldiers were engaged in a peaceful operation with Iraqi citizens,” said Maj. Russ Goemaere, a spokesman for Task Force Baghdad.

“The terrorist undoubtedly saw the children,” Maj. Goemaere said, calling the attack “absolutely abhorrent.”

After the bombing, charred remains of an engine block wrapped in barbed wire sat on the road. U.S. and Iraqi troops broadcast messages by loudspeakers in Arabic, warning civilians not to approach military vehicles.

In Washington, White House spokesman Scott McClellan said the bombing showed that insurgents “have no regard for innocent, human life, whether it’s men, women or children.”

In September, 35 Iraqi children were killed as bombs exploded while U.S. troops handed out candy at a government-sponsored celebration to inaugurate a Baghdad sewage plant. It marked the largest death toll of children in an insurgent attack since the Iraq conflict began.

Later yesterday, about 200 people turned out for the funeral of five victims, in keeping with the Muslim tradition of burying the dead quickly. The crowd shouted “Allahu akbar” — “God is great” — and some fired weapons in the air.

In another attack in Baghdad yesterday, a roadside bomb exploded near an American patrol, killing a 7-year-old and seriously wounding a woman, police said.

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