- The Washington Times - Sunday, February 25, 2007

BAGHDAD — A suicide attacker struck outside a college campus, killing at least 41 persons and prompting the leader of Iraq’s biggest Shi’ite militia to complain that a U.S.-led security crackdown has failed to protect Iraqis.

Many Shi’ites think bombings have continued because the Shi’ite-led government bowed to American pressure and persuaded the radical cleric Sheik Muqtada al-Sadr to take his Mahdi’s Army fighters off the streets.

Sheik al-Sadr’s statement, read to his followers in Sadr City, is likely to add pressure on U.S. and Iraqi forces to show results in the nearly two-week-old crackdown.

“I’m certain, just like all oppressed Iraqis are certain, that no security plan will work, and no good will come of any occupier,” Sheik al-Sadr said in the statement.

“Here we are, watching booby-trapped cars exploding to harvest thousands of innocent lives from our beloved people in the middle of a security plan that is controlled by an occupier who does as he pleases.”

U.S. and Iraqi leaders have urged the public to be patient, warning that it will take months before the security operation shows results. President Bush has ordered 21,500 more U.S. troops to Baghdad and surrounding areas, although the last units are not due until May.

Sheik al-Sadr urged Iraq’s mostly Shi’ite security forces to “make your own Iraqi plans independent of the Americans.”

Most of the victims of yesterday’s bombing were students at the college, a business-studies annex of Mustansiriyah University that was hit by a series of deadly explosions last month. At least 46 persons were injured in yesterday’s blast.

The attacker detonated a bomb-rigged suicide belt near the main entrance to the college, where students were resuming midterm exams after the two-day weekend in Iraq. Police said that guards confronted the bomber as he tried to enter the college grounds.

A 22-year-old student, Muhanad Nasir, said he saw a commotion at the gate. “Then there was an explosion. I did not feel anything for 15 minutes and when I returned to consciousness, I found myself in the hospital,” said Mr. Nasir, who was wounded in his head and chest.

The blast left cement walls pockmarked by shrapnel and twisted parts of the metal gate and turnstile. Parents rushed to the site and some collapsed in tears after learning their children were killed or injured. Students used rags and towels to try to mop up the blood.

The school is in a mostly Shi’ite district of northeast Baghdad, but it does not limit its enrollment to that group. The main campus of Mustansiriyah University, about 1 miles away, was the target of twin car bombs and a suicide blast last month that killed 70 persons.

Earlier, two Katyusha rockets hit a Shi’ite enclave in southern Baghdad, killing at least 10, and a bomb near the fortified Green Zone claimed two lives, police said.

The Green Zone houses the U.S. and British embassies and key Iraqi government offices. The blast was about 100 yards from the Iranian Embassy, but authorities did not think it was targeting the compound.

A separate car bombing in a Shi’ite district in central Baghdad killed at least one person and injured four, police said.

In the northern city of Mosul, U.S. troops killed two gunmen in a raid and captured a suspected local leader of the insurgent group al Qaeda in Iraq, the military said. Additional details were not immediately available.

Iraq’s Interior Ministry, meanwhile, raised the toll from a suicide truck bombing in the violence-wracked Anbar province on Saturday to 52 dead and 74 injured.

The attack on worshippers leaving a mosque in Habbaniyah, about 50 miles west of Baghdad, was thought to be linked to escalating internal Sunni battles between insurgents and those who oppose them.

U.S. military envoys and pro-government leaders have worked hard to sway clan chiefs and other influential Anbar figures to turn against the militants, who include foreigners fighting under the banner of al Qaeda in Iraq. The extremists have fought back with targeted killings and bombings against fellow Sunnis.


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