- The Washington Times - Friday, January 26, 2007

BAGHDAD — A bomb hidden in a box of pigeons exploded yesterday as shoppers gathered around, tearing through a busy pet and livestock market and littering the blood-soaked pavement with human remains and animal carcasses.

Nationwide, at least 62 persons, including a U.S. Marine, were killed or found dead.

The attack occurred while House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Rep. John P. Murtha, Pennsylvania Democrat, both vocal war critics, were in Iraq on a surprise visit.

After meeting Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki, Mrs. Pelosi, California Democrat, said they hoped their trip would “convey to our troops the appreciation of the American people for what they’re doing, to applaud their patriotism.”

The attack at the animal market shattered the calm as Baghdad residents strolled past stalls where sellers were peddling birds, dogs, cats, sheep, goats and exotic animals such as snakes and monkeys.

No one claimed responsibility for the bombing, which police and hospital officials said killed 15 persons and wounded 66. Suspicion fell on Sunni insurgents because the market sits near a predominantly Shi’ite neighborhood on the east bank of the Tigris River that divides Baghdad.

It was the latest in a series of attacks on busy commercial targets in the capital as insurgents apparently sought to maximize bloodshed ahead of a U.S.-Iraqi security crackdown.

The explosion struck the Souq al-Ghazl at about 10 a.m., one of the busiest times for the animal vendors and an hour before the start of a four-hour vehicle ban that is imposed every Friday to prevent car bombs from striking mosques during weekly Islamic prayers.

The bomb detonated in the part of the market that specializes in birds; other areas are reserved for fish, dogs or other animals.

The bomber arrived with an egg carton containing pigeons for sale, but it exploded after he walked away to get a drink, striking potential buyers gathered around the box, according to police and witnesses.

Attacks elsewhere left at least 46 persons dead, including 38 bullet-riddled bodies found mostly in Baghdad. The body of a Shi’ite boxer who had been kidnapped days ago also was found in central Baghdad, with wounds on his neck indicating he had been hanged, police said.

A Marine was killed in fighting in the Sunni insurgent stronghold of Anbar province, west of Baghdad, the military said, raising the number of U.S. service members who have died since the war began to at least 3,070, according to an Associated Press count.

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