Sun, Jul 02, 2006 - Page 1 News List

Baghdad market car bombing kills 62

KIDNAPPING A Sunni member of parliament and seven bodyguards were abducted by gunmen, who stopped her three-car convoy in a largely Shiite area of the capital


A car bomb tore through a market in a poor Shiite district of Baghdad yesterday, killing 62 people and wounding 114 in the bloodiest attack in Iraq for three months, police and Interior Ministry sources said.

It came a day after Osama bin Laden urged al-Qaeda followers to avenge the killing by US troops of their leader in Iraq.

Around the same time as the bombing, a Sunni Arab member of parliament and seven of her guards were abducted in the city.

Police said the market bomb went off mid-morning as a police patrol was passing a parked car in a market area of the capital's eastern Sadr City district, a stronghold of the Mehdi Army militia of radical Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr.

Angry crowds formed around the scene of devastation at the sprawling outdoor market along a main road in the slum district.

"May God curse the Sunnis," one man yelled. "If the government can't protect people, they should hand security over to the Mehdi Army or to the people," another told reporters.

It was the deadliest attack since US forces killed al-Qaeda's leader in Iraq, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, in a June 7 air strike.

Bin Laden, in an Internet recording, urged insurgents to avenge his death, describing the Jordanian as a "lion of Jihad."

With the highest toll since over 70 died at a Shiite mosque on April 7, it was also the bloodiest attack since Shiite Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki formed a unity coalition six weeks ago.

Angry onlookers at the scene of the Sadr City bombing turned on journalists arriving after the blast boomed across the city.

"We demand Maliki not seek reconciliation with terrorists," one man said, accusing Sunni leaders of complicity with killers.

Bodies lay on the ground, some burned beyond recognition, others missing limbs. People wept and shouted. Cars blazed.

Maliki ordered a security clampdown on Baghdad three weeks ago but results have been mixed.

There was no word yesterday as to who kidnapped Member of Parliament Tayseer Mashhadani and her guards in Baghdad's predominantly Shiite neighborhood of Shaab.

A Sunni legislator said Mashhadani was coming from the eastern province of Diyala in a three-car convoy which was stopped by heavily-armed gunmen using at least seven cars.

"They were taken to an unknown destination" Sunni Legislator Mohammed al-Daeni said.

Mashhadani was coming to Baghdad to attend a parliament meeting today, he said.

She is a member of the Iraqi Accordance Front, a Sunni bloc that holds 44 seats in the 275-member parliament.

In other developments, Iraqi and US authorities freed 495 prisoners from US facilities yesterday, completing a mass release announced by al-Maliki last month as part of his national reconciliation efforts.

US Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad welcomed the move and said more prisoners could be freed.

"We are prepared in consultation with the Iraqi leaders to make future prisoner releases and to take other concrete steps to facilitate reconciliation," he said in a statement. "As the government moves forward with these steps, it can count on support from the US government."

Al-Maliki had promised to release 2,500 inmates by the end of last month. The Justice Ministry said yesterday's releases fulfilled that promise.

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