121 dead in Baghdad Market Truck Bombing

Baghdad (CBS/AP) -- A suicide truck bomber struck a market in a predominantly Shiite area of Baghdad on Saturday, killing at least 121 people among the crowd buying food for evening meals, the biggest strike in the capital in more than two months.

The attacker was driving a truck carrying food when he detonated his explosives, destroying stores and stalls that had been set up in the busy outdoor Sadriyah market, police said.

The late-afternoon explosion was the latest in a series of attacks against commercial targets in the capital as insurgents seek to maximize the number of people killed ahead of a planned U.S.-Iraqi security sweep.

Many of the injured were driven to the hospitals in pickup trucks and lifted onto stretchers.

"It was a strong blow. A car exploded. I fell on the ground," said one young man with a bandaged head, his face still streaked with blood.

Officials said at least 102 people were killed and more than 200 wounded.

It was the deadliest attack in the capital since Nov. 23, when suspected al Qaeda fighters attacked the capital's Sadr City Shiite slum with a series of car bombs and mortars that struck in quick succession, killing at least 215 people.

Also, two American soldiers were killed in fighting on Friday in Anbar, the province west of Baghdad that has seen some of the war's worst violence, U.S. commanders said Saturday.

The deaths raise the number of U.S. troops killed in the first three days of this month to 10. The total number of American forces to die in Iraq since the war began is now 3,094, according to an Associated Press count. At least 2,482 died as a result of hostile action, according to the military's numbers.

On Saturday, eight bombs exploded within two hours in mostly Arab parts of Kirkuk, killing at least two people, wounding more than 40 and threatening to sharpen tensions among ethnic groups competing for control of the oil-rich region in northern Iraq.

The attacks in Kirkuk started about 9:40 a.m. when a suicide car bomber tried to drive into the offices of the Kurdish Democratic Party of Massoud Barzani, leader of Iraq's autonomous Kurdish region, police said.

Guards opened fire on the car, but the attacker was able to detonate his explosives about 15 yards from the building, killing at least two people and wounding 30, including five KDP guards, police Col. Dishtoun Mohammed said.

Concrete blast walls protected the offices from serious damage, but the explosion knocked the KDP sign off the top of the building and devastated four nearby houses. The charred hulks of five cars were near the entrance of the Kurdish building, which is in a mainly Turkomen district in eastern Kirkuk.

"We are upset and angry about the existence of a party office in our area," Um Khalid, a 52-year-old Turkomen housewife, said as she examined her house that was damaged in the blast. "Had the office not been here, the suicide bomber would not have chosen to explode his car near our houses."

Another car bomb exploded about 20 minutes later near a girls' school in the south of the city, but the facility was closed for the weekend and no casualties were reported, police Col. Anwar Hassan said.

A third car bomb hit a gas station at 10:10 a.m. in southern Kirkuk, wounding three civilians, followed by two other parked car bombs 20 minutes later near a popular pastry shop that wounded five people in the southern half of the city.

Mohammed Faleh, who works in the Shaima pastry shop in an area near the main road to Baghdad, said it would be be the fourth time they would have to replace windows after being hit by three previous blasts.

"I heard the sound of the explosion as I was adding water to the flour inside the shop. I rushed outside to see smoke and fire rising from the car bombs while some moving cars were colliding with each other," Faleh said. "I saw wounded people being taken away by some shop owners to the hospital."

A sixth car bomb wounded five other people after it exploded at 11:50 a.m. in the mainly Arab al-Wasiti area in southern Kirkuk, while two roadside bombs targeted police patrols at about the same time in a predominantly Christian area in the north of the city.

In a bid to prevent more violence, provincial police chief Gen. Sherko Shakir imposed a 4 p.m.-7 a.m. curfew on the city.

Razqar Ali, a Kurdish leader and head of Kirkuk provincial council, accused the militants of trying to destabilize the city as Kurds seek to incorporate it into their autonomous region to the north.

"The terrorists want to destabilize the city of Kirkuk. They want to depict the city as unsafe to provide a pretext to other groups to interfere," he said, an implicit reference to Turkey's objections to the Kurdish efforts.

Clashes between heavily armed insurgents and Iraqi forces also raged for several hours in Mosul, northwest of Kirkuk, causing authorities to impose a temporary curfew on the city. There was no immediate word on casualties. Police spokesman Brig. Abdul Karim al-Jubouri said Iraqi security forces backed by U.S. air power were moving to control the situation.


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