- The Washington Times - Saturday, January 27, 2007

BAGHDAD — The U.S. military reported the deaths of seven American soldiers yesterday, while Sunni insurgent bombers struck yet another market in a predominantly Shi’ite district, killing at least 13 persons in their bid to terrorize Baghdad days before a U.S.-Iraqi military crackdown.

The latest market attack capped a week in which more than 150 people, mostly Shi’ites, were slain in bomb attacks.

Death squads, thought to be primarily Shi’ite militiamen, continued their butchery on the other side of Iraq’s deepening sectarian divide, with police reporting the discovery of 40 bodies dumped in Baghdad alone. Two of the victims were women, and most of the bodies showed signs of torture, police said.

In all, at least 61 victims of Iraq’s sectarian warfare were killed or found dead across the country.

Of the seven U.S. service members reported dead yesterday, two died in Diyala province northeast of the capital on Friday, three in an unspecified location north of Baghdad yesterday and two in east Baghdad on Thursday.

The latest reported deaths raised to at least 3,079 the number of U.S. service members who have died since the beginning of the Iraq war in March 2003, according to an Associated Press count.

U.S. air strikes killed 14 insurgents and destroyed a safe house for foreign fighters during a raid south of Baqouba, 35 miles northeast of Baghdad. Two suspects were captured, the military said.

The Americans said the raid had targeted a foreigner they thought to be responsible for a series of attacks on U.S. and Iraqi forces in the extremely violent Baqouba region. The military there has been caught in the midst of some of the bloodiest sectarian fighting of the war.

Yesterday’s bombings employed what has become a classic insurgent tactic.

First, a suicide car bomber drove into the crowded market stalls in the busy New Baghdad commercial area shortly after noon, then detonated his explosives among the stores and kiosks selling food, clothes, household appliances and birds.

As people rushed to help the victims, a parked car bomb exploded.

The 13 killed included two policemen. Four other officers were among the 42 wounded, police said.

Burned-out hulks of cars and vans littered the market. A bag of fruit lay in the twisted metal on the bloody pavement.

Farooq Haitham, the 33-year-old owner of a watch-repair shop, said the area had been targeted by bombers before, but shopkeepers had no choice but to keep opening their doors.

“What can we do? We want to live. We need the money, so we come to work,” Mr. Haitham said.

It was the latest in a series of attacks against commercial targets, in which more than 150 people have died since last Sunday. The attack signals a tough battle ahead as U.S. and Iraqi forces prepare for the security operation, a third bid to pacify the capital since Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki took power on May 25.

The week’s deadliest attack killed 88 persons Monday when a suicide car bomber crashed into a market in the central neighborhood of Bab al-Sharqi.

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