- The Washington Times - Saturday, April 14, 2007

BAGHDAD — A car bomb exploded yesterday near one of Shi’ite Islam’s holiest shrines in Karbala, killing at least 37 persons and wounding more than 150. At least 16 children were among the dead in the latest attack away from the American-led security crackdown in Baghdad.

A suicide bomber also struck in Baghdad, blowing up his car on a major bridge and killing 10 in the second such assault in 48 hours.

Chaotic arguing erupted in Iraq’s legislature, with the parliament speaker shouting for order as lawmakers squabbled over who was to blame for holes in security that allowed a suicide bomber to mingle among them Thursday and kill a Sunni Arab lawmaker.

The political wrangling underlined the continuing weakness of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s government despite a more than two-month-old U.S.-Iraqi military operation intended to pacify Baghdad and give his government room to function.

The crackdown will land 30,000 additional American troops in Iraq by the end of next month, and it has become a central issue in the U.S. presidential campaign.

Mr. al-Maliki said he thought U.S. support for his administration was steadfast.

“I feel that there is strong support because success would mean a civilized and democratic process,” he told Al Arabiya television. “I don’t feel any change … despite differences within the American government.”

The crackdown also brought a Pentagon decision last week to extend the deployments of U.S. troops from 12 to 15 months — a situation that the U.S. commander in Iraq acknowledged yesterday was “tough news.”

In a letter to his troops, Gen. David Petraeus expressed appreciation for “the hardship and strain the extension will put on you and your families,” and he warned of “an enormous amount of hard work ahead.”

In addition to the bombings in Karbala and Baghdad, at least 40 persons were killed or found dead across Iraq yesterday. The U.S. military announced the death of one service member, killed Friday by a roadside bomb in southern Iraq.

The bloodshed in Karbala occurred when a parked car loaded with explosives blew up at a busy bus station at midmorning, killing at least 37 persons and wounding 168, police and hospital officials said. Other reports put the death toll as high as 56.

The station is about 200 yards from one of Shi’ite Islam’s holiest spots — the Imam Hussein shrine, where the prophet Muhammad’s grandson is buried. The shrine, 50 miles south of Baghdad, is the destination of an annual Shi’ite pilgrimage, during which hundreds of faithful were slain last month.

The suicide car bombing in Baghdad killed 10 persons, police said. The concrete structure of the Jadriyah bridge experienced little damage.

On Thursday, a suicide truck bomb collapsed the steel-girder al-Sarafiyah bridge farther north along the Tigris River, plunging cars into the water and killing 11 persons.

Parliament convened a regular session a day after an emergency meeting was held to express defiance to insurgents and mourn those wounded when a suicide bomber blew himself up in the assembly’s cafeteria Thursday.

But yesterday’s session descended quickly into chaos and angry recriminations. Speaker Mahmoud al-Mashhadani said his office took “full responsibility” for Thursday’s security breach, but he reminded legislators that some of them have refused to be searched when entering the building.

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