- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 18, 2007

12:53 p.m.

BAGHDAD — Four large bombs exploded in mostly Shi’ite areas of Baghdad today, killing at least 160 persons and wounding scores as violence climbed toward levels seen before the U.S.-Iraqi campaign to pacify the capital began two months ago.

In the deadliest of the attacks, a parked car bomb detonated in a crowd of workers at the Sadriyah market in central Baghdad, killing at least 112 persons and wounding 115, said Raad Muhsin, an official at Al-Kindi Hospital where the victims were taken.

A police official confirmed the toll, speaking on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to release the information.

Among the dead were several construction workers who had been rebuilding the mostly Shi’ite marketplace after a bombing destroyed many shops and killed 137 persons there in February, the police official said.

The laborers typically finish work around 4 p.m. each day. One of those wounded, 28-year-old Salih Mustafa, said he was waiting for a minibus to head home when the blast went off at 4:05 p.m.

“I rushed with others to give a hand and help the victims,” he said. “I saw three bodies in a wooden cart, and civilian cars were helping to transfer the victims. It was really a horrible scene.”

The market is situated on a side street lined with shops and vendors selling produce, meat and other staples. It is also about 500 yards from a Sunni shrine.

About an hour earlier, a suicide car bomber crashed into an Iraqi police checkpoint at an entrance to Sadr City, the capital’s biggest Shi’ite Muslim neighborhood and a stronghold for the militia led by radical anti-U.S. cleric Muqtada al-Sadr.

The explosion killed at least 33 persons, including five Iraqi security officers, and wounded 45, police and hospital officials said.

Black smoke billowed from a jumble of at least eight incinerated vehicles that were in a jam of cars stopped at the checkpoint. Bystanders scrambled over twisted metal to drag victims from the smoldering wreckage as Iraqi guards staggered around stunned.

Earlier, a parked car exploded near a private hospital in the central neighborhood of Karradah, killing 11 persons and wounding 13, police said. The blast damaged the Abdul Majid hospital and other nearby buildings.

The fourth explosion was from a bomb left on a minibus in the central Rusafi area, area, killing four persons and wounding six others, police said.

Also in Baghdad, four policemen were killed this afternoon when gunmen ambushed their patrol south of the city center, police said. Six pedestrians were wounded in the gunfire.

U.S. officials had cited a decrease in sectarian killings in Baghdad since the U.S.-Iraqi crackdown was begun Feb. 14. But the past week has seen several spectacular attacks on the capital, including a suicide bombing inside parliament and a powerful blast that collapsed a landmark bridge across the Tigris River.

“We’ve seen both inspiring progress and too much evidence that we still face many grave challenges,” Maj. Gen. B. William Caldwell IV, a U.S. military spokesman, told reporters today. “We’ve always said securing Baghdad would not be easy.”

To the west of the city, U.S. troops killed five suspected insurgents and captured 30 others in a raid in Anbar province, a day after police uncovered 17 decomposing corpses beneath two schoolyards in the provincial capital.

The raid took place early today near Karmah, a town northeast of Fallujah in Anbar, which has been a stronghold for Sunni insurgents.

American forces raided a group of buildings suspected of being used by militants and found explosives inside one of them, the military said. A helicopter was called in and dropped precision-guided bombs on the buildings, it said.

The soldiers came under fire and shot back, killing five Iraqis and wounding four others, the statement said. The wounded were taken to a military hospital and remained in U.S. custody. Twenty-six other persons were detained as well, the military said.

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