- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 12, 2006

11:41 a.m.

BAGHDAD — Two car bombs targeting day laborers looking for work exploded within seconds of each other today on a main square in central Baghdad, killing at least 63 persons and wounding more than 150, police said.

Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, a member of Iraq’s Shi’ite majority, condemned the attack and blamed it on Sunni extremists and supporters of Saddam Hussein.

In Samarra, 60 miles north of Baghdad, police discovered a bomb hidden outside a revered Shi’ite mosque yesterday, and it exploded while coalition bomb disposal officials were removing it, slightly damaging the building, the U.S. command said.

On Feb. 22, an explosion destroyed the dome of the Golden Mosque, leading to the killing of at least 136 Iraqis the next day and setting off a cycle of sectarian violence that continues in many parts of the country.

The coordinated attack in Baghdad’s Tayaran Square involved a suicide attacker who drove up to the day laborers pretending to want to hire them, then set off his explosives as they got into his minibus, Lt. Bilal Ali said. At virtually the same time — 7 a.m. — a bomb exploded in a car parked about 30 yards away.

The blasts shattered storefront windows, dug craters in the road and set fire to about 10 other cars.

Interior Ministry spokesman Brig. Abdul-Karim Khalaf said at least 63 persons were killed and 236 were wounded, although some police put the number of dead as high as 71 with a lower wounded toll of 151. The different figures could not be reconciled immediately.

Police said most of the victims were Shi’ites from poor areas of the capital such as Sadr City.

Iraqis gather on the square early in the morning, soliciting jobs as construction workers, cleaners and painters. They buy breakfast at stands selling tea and egg sandwiches while they wait for potential employers to drive up.

Tayaran Square is near several government ministries and a bridge that crosses the Tigris River to the heavily fortified Green Zone, where Iraq’s parliament and the U.S. and British embassies are located.

Day laborers have been the target of similar attacks before. On Nov. 19, a suicide bomber in a minivan lured day laborers to his vehicle with promises of a job in the mainly Shi’ite southern city of Hillah, killing 22 persons and wounding 44, police said.

In the northern city of Mosul, a television cameraman working for Associated Press was shot to death by insurgents while covering clashes — the third AP employee killed in the Iraq war.

Aswan Ahmed Lutfallah, 35, was having his car repaired in an industrial area in the eastern part of the city when insurgents and police began fighting nearby and he rushed to cover the clash, police said. Insurgents saw him filming, approached him and shot him to death.

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