BAGHDAD — The government yesterday filed its first criminal case against former dictator Saddam Hussein as suicide bombers killed 22 persons in a relentless campaign that had taken more than 90 lives a night before.
Raid Juhi, chief judge of the Iraq Special Tribunal, announced the filing in connection with the 1982 massacre of an estimated 150 Shi’ites in retaliation for a failed assassination attempt.
Judge Juhi said that the investigation into the July 8, 1982, massacre had been completed and that the case had been referred to the courts for trial. The step roughly corresponds to an indictment in the U.S. legal system.
The date for the trial of Saddam and three others was expected to be determined in “the coming days,” Judge Juhi said. If convicted, the four could face the death penalty.
Some U.S. officials have quietly urged the Iraqis to proceed carefully in prosecuting Saddam for fear a trial could further inflame tensions as the Shi’ite-led government tries to lure Sunnis away from the insurgency.
Those overtures have been impeded by a sharp rise in suicide bombings, which have taken a toll on Iraqi civilians. In the past week alone, at least 170 persons have been killed in suicide attacks across Iraq.
One car bomber yesterday struck the offices of Iraq’s electoral commission in eastern Baghdad, killing five election employees and one policeman.
The commission later affirmed “its determination to continue the electoral process,” including plans for a national referendum on a new constitution and balloting for a new government later this year.
The weekend’s most devastating attack occurred in Musayyib, 40 miles south of Baghdad, where a suicide bombing ignited a fuel truck in front of a Shi’ite mosque as thousands were strolling through nearby markets in the cool of the evening or heading for sunset prayers.
The Iraqi government reported yesterday that the death toll stood at “more than 90,” and hospital officials said more than 150 were injured. It was the second-deadliest single bombing strike since Saddam was driven from power in April 2003 — exceeded only by a Feb. 28 suicide car bombing in Hillah that killed 125.
Yesterday, dazed survivors and relatives wandered through the charred wreckage. Some wept as they lifted blankets covering blackened bodies of victims. One weeping man struck himself in the head as a sign of grief.
“The enemies of freedom and humanity in Iraq have committed a new, ugly crime that shows their bankruptcy as they target our innocent civilians in the Musayyib district, killing more than 90 people,” the government said yesterday.
The U.S. command said yesterday that two American soldiers were killed in bombings on Saturday — one in Iskandariyah, 30 miles southeast of Baghdad, and the other near Kirkuk, 180 miles north of the capital. Two soldiers also were wounded in the Kirkuk attack, the military said.