- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 16, 2007

BAGHDAD — Twin car bombs tore through a leading Baghdad university as students left classes yesterday in the deadliest attack in Iraq in nearly two months, and the United Nations reported 34,452 civilians were slain last year, nearly three times more than the government reported.

At least 65 students died, boosting the number of Iraqis killed or found dead yesterday to 142 in what appeared to be a renewed campaign of Sunni insurgent violence against Shi’ite targets.

The sharp uptick in deadly attacks coincided with the release of U.N. figures that showed an average of 94 civilians died each day in sectarian bloodshed in 2006.

The university blasts wrecked two small buses as students at Al-Mustansiriya University were lining up for the ride home at about 3:45 p.m., according to Taqi al-Moussawi, a university dean.

The attackers stationed a man wearing a suicide belt in the expected path of fleeing students to take even more lives, but he was spotted and shot by security men before he could blow himself up, the dean said.

“The only guilt of our martyred students is that they pursued education. They belong to all religions, sects and ethnic groups,” said an angry Mr. al-Moussawi, himself a Shi’ite. “The terrorists want to stop education. … Those students had nothing to do with politics.”

The university’s well-shaded campus occupies several square blocks in north central Baghdad, a mostly Shi’ite area. The school ranks second among institutions of higher education in Iraq. Founded in 1963, it was named after one of the oldest Islamic schools, established in the 13th century during the Abbasid dynasty that ruled the Muslim world.

Thousands attend the university, known especially for its colleges of science, literature and education.

Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki blamed the attack on “terrorists and Saddamists” seeking revenge for Monday’s hanging of two of Saddam Hussein’s top aides, convicted with him for the slaying of more than 140 Shi’ite men and boys after a 1982 assassination attempt in the northern town of Dujail.

The violence yesterday against Shi’ites may signal a campaign by Sunni insurgents to shed as much blood as possible before the deployment of 21,500 more American troops.

Yesterday’s death toll from the Al-Mustansiriya bombings made it the single most deadly attack against civilians in Iraq since Nov. 23, when a series of car bombs and mortar attacks by suspected al Qaeda in Iraq fighters in Baghdad’s Sadr City Shi’ite slum killed at least 215 persons.

The U.N. civilian casualty count for last year was announced in Baghdad by Gianni Magazzeni, the chief of the U.N. Assistance Mission for Iraq in Baghdad. He said 34,452 civilians died — an average of 94 a day — and 36,685 were wounded.

The U.N. report also said that 30,842 persons were detained in the country as of Dec. 31, including 14,534 held in U.S. military-run prisons.

As bombs detonated at Al-Mustansiriya University yesterday, there were a series of other attacks on Shi’ite neighborhoods in central Baghdad.

Of the 142 Iraqis killed or found dead yesterday, 124 died in Baghdad. Police said they had been unable to complete their tally of corpses dumped in the eastern half of the city.

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