- The Washington Times - Friday, January 6, 2006

BAGHDAD — Suicide bombers infiltrated a line of police recruits in Ramadi and a crowd of Shi’ite pilgrims in Karbala yesterday as insurgents killed 125 civilians and five U.S. soldiers, escalating attacks while political factions worked to forge a coalition government.

The stark surge in postelection violence produced familiar but heart-rending images on a day that was the fourth deadliest since the fall of Saddam Hussein in 2003.

A woman and an infant girl in a bright red jumpsuit lay in a pool of blood, their faces covered by a sheet as men ferried the wounded in pushcarts in Karbala, 50 miles south of Baghdad. Ball bearings lay scattered on the bare earth next to Shi’ite Islam’s holiest shrine in Iraq.

After the devastating attack in Ramadi, a Sunni insurgent stronghold 70 miles west of the capital, police recruits got back in line to continue the screening process, said Marine Capt. Jeffrey S. Pool.

Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari, a Shi’ite, denounced the violence as an attempt to derail the political process at a time when progress was being made toward a broad-based government that would include the Sunni Arabs and thus possibly weaken the insurgency.

With the two-day death toll from attacks reaching 183, Iraq’s main Shi’ite religious party, the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution, issued a veiled threat to Sunnis supporting the insurgency that its patience was wearing thin.

The three main attacks yesterday all took place within an hour’s time. The death toll — the largest single-day total since Sept. 14, when 162 died — included five American soldiers killed by a roadside bomb.

The American convoy was south of Karbala when it was attacked about 10 a.m., though it had been conducting a mission unrelated to the suicide attack in the Shi’ite holy city, Lt. Col. Barry Johnson said. At least 2,188 members of the U.S. military have died since the war began, according to an Associated Press count.

Only 15 minutes after the attack on the convoy, a suicide bomber wearing a vest packed with ball bearings detonated his explosives on a busy pedestrian path about 100 feet from the Imam Hussein shrine in Karbala. The attack killed 63 and wounded 120, police said.

The Karbala bomber detonated a vest stuffed with about 18 pounds of explosives and several hand grenades, Col. Razaq al-Taie said.

At least five Iranians were among the dead, police said.

A would-be suicide car bomber arrested on Tuesday before he could blow up his vehicle told Karbala police a number of suicide bombers were in the city, a police commander said.

The attack in Ramadi came 40 minutes later, when a bomber standing among about 1,000 police recruits struck near the Ramadi Glass and Ceramics Works. A doctor at Ramadi General Hospital said 56 persons were killed.

In other violence yesterday, a suicide car bomb killed three Iraqi soldiers in Baghdad, Lt. Col. Thamir al-Gharawi said, and gunmen killed three persons in separate incidents, raising yesterday’s toll to 130.

On Wednesday, 53 persons died in attacks, including 32 killed by a suicide bomber at a Shi’ite funeral.

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