- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 21, 2007

BAGHDAD — Police said yesterday that children were used in a weekend car bombing in which the driver gained permission to park in a busy shopping area after he pointed out that he was leaving his children in the back seat.

The account appeared to confirm one given Tuesday by a U.S. general speaking to reporters in Washington.

The children were used in a Sunday bombing in northern Baghdad, and U.S. officials labeled it a brutal new tactic put to use by insurgents to battle a five-week-old security crackdown in the capital.

The attack targeted people cooking food at open-air grills in the street as part of a Shi’ite Muslim holiday commemorating the anniversary of the prophet Muhammad’s death.

Key details were missing from local police accounts, such as the ages and sexes of the children, whether they were among the victims, and what happened to their bodies.

A senior official in the Shaab neighborhood police department said an investigation was opened after the owner of a shop in the market district said he and other residents initially told a man he could not park his car on the street but relented after seeing the children in the back seat.

The U.S. military has warned that insurgents are finding new ways to bypass stepped-up security to kill as many people as possible and spread panic. A series of bombings using toxic chlorine since Jan. 28 also raised concerns.

Insurgent tactics have evolved since the war started four years ago, and youths often have been among their victims. But the use of children as decoys would signal a new level of ruthlessness in the fight for control of the capital.

Iraqi children have been drawn into the fight in the past, however.

In the deadliest cases, a suicide car bomber sped up to American soldiers distributing candy to children in July 2005 and detonated his explosives, killing about 27 people, including a dozen children and a U.S. soldier.

That occurred about nine months after 35 Iraqi children were killed in a string of bombs that exploded as American troops were handing out candy at a government-sponsored celebration to inaugurate a sewage plant in west Baghdad.

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