- The Washington Times - Saturday, April 8, 2006

BAGHDAD — A car bomb killed six persons yesterday near a Shi’ite shrine south of Baghdad, even as the death toll from the deadliest attack of the year rose to 85. And U.S. Marines beat back the largest attack in weeks by Sunni Arab insurgents in the western city of Ramadi.

The car bomb exploded at a small shrine in the Euphrates River town of Musayyib, 40 miles south of Baghdad. Police said most of the six dead and 14 wounded were Shi’ite pilgrims visiting the shrine.

Fears of more attacks are running high in Shi’ite areas after the car bombing Thursday that killed 10 in the Shi’ite city of Najaf and the suicide attack the following day against a Shi’ite mosque in Baghdad — the deadliest attack in Iraq this year.

The attacks on houses of worship have stoked tensions between Shi’ite and Sunni Muslims, especially after the bombing Feb. 22 of a Shi’ite shrine in Samarra, an act that triggered reprisal attacks against Sunni mosques and clerics.

The death toll from the bombing Friday of the Buratha mosque in north Baghdad rose to 85 because some of the wounded died, said Dr. Riyadh Abdul Ameer of the Health Ministry. Officials said the death toll could rise more because of severe injuries among the 156 persons wounded in the attack by suicide bombers, including one dressed as a woman.

Also yesterday, Sunni insurgents made their strongest attack in six weeks against the Anbar provincial government headquarters in Ramadi, 75 miles west of Baghdad. There were no U.S. casualties, Marines said.

U.S. Marines guarding the government headquarters fought back with anti-tank rockets, machine guns and small-arms fire. A U.S. Air Force F-18 fighter bombed insurgent positions, unleashing thunderous explosions that shook the city.

Sporadic shooting occurred around the government building after sunset, and an Iraqi soldier was killed yesterday in a separate fight in Ramadi, U.S. officials said. Three Iraqi soldiers were wounded in a clash with insurgents in Fallujah, about 30 miles east of Ramadi, police said, and the U.S. military reported that a U.S. Marine died from wounds suffered in hostile action in Anbar province on Friday.

In other developments yesterday, police found four headless bodies, showing signs of torture, that were dumped on a farm about 20 miles north of Baghdad, and a mortar round hit a house near the Education Ministry in central Baghdad, killing two men, police said.

Efforts to form a strong, broad-based government including Sunnis, Shi’ites and Kurds have stalled over Sunni and Kurdish opposition to Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari, the Shi’ite candidate to lead the next administration. Opponents accuse him of failing to stem sectarian violence.

However, Mr. al-Jaafari has refused to step aside, and his Shi’ite coalition has been reluctant to reconsider his nomination for fear of splintering their ranks. Shi’ite officials were to meet, possibly as soon as today, to discuss the stalemate at the urging of the country’s top Shi’ite leader, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Husseini al-Sistani.

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