Mon, Jul 24, 2006 - Page 1 News List

Bombs in Baghdad,Kirkuk, leave more than 60 dead in Iraq

CARNAGE Amid the killings, a prosecutor announced that Saddam Hussein had been sent to hospital due to the effects of a hunger strike

AP AND AFP , BAGHDAD

Bombs exploded yesterday in Baghdad and the northern oil center of Kirkuk, killing more than 60 people, police said, and dramatically escalating tension as the prime minister left for Washington for talks on reversing the country's slide toward civil war.

The blasts occurred as Iraqi forces and the US-led coalition mounted a major crackdown on the country's most feared Shiite militia, the Mehdi Army, blamed by Sunnis for many of the sectarian kidnappings and killings which threaten to tear the country apart.

The Baghdad bombing occurred when a suicide driver detonated a minivan in the Mehdi Army stronghold of Sadr City at the entrance to the Jameelah market, packed with shoppers and vendors on the first day of the Iraqi work week.

An Iraqi army statement said 34 people were killed and 73 were wounded. Eight more people were killed and 20 wounded when a second bomb exploded two hours later at a municipal government building in Sadr City, the Iraqi army said.

In Kirkuk, a car bomb detonated at midday near a courthouse in the city market district, killing 20, wounding more than 150 and triggering huge fires in wooden shops, according to police Brigadier General Sarhat Qadir. It was the fourth car bombing this month in Kirkuk.

Officials said the Kirkuk toll was so high because smoke from the fires triggered in the shops suffocated many people trapped in the narrow streets nearby. Others suffered burns when the car bomb ignited chemicals stored in some shops.

Al-Maliki and a large delegation left yesterday for Washington, where he will meet US President George W. Bush tomorrow. Security is expected to dominate the talks.

The security crisis has diverted attention among the Shiite political establishment from the Israeli attacks against the Shiite militia Hezbollah in Lebanon. Nevertheless, some Shiite politicians had urged al-Maliki to cancel his Washington trip to protest the Lebanon attacks.

Al-Maliki, a former Shiite activist who spent years in exile in Syria, has condemned Israel's offensive and has complained that the US and the international community have not done enough to stop it.

Al-Maliki told reporters he would convey that message personally to Bush.

In other developments, former Iraqi president Saddam Hussein has been hospitalized due to the effects of a hunger strike and will not attend his trial for crimes against humanity today, chief prosecutor Jaafar al-Musawi said.

"Saddam Hussein has just been admitted to hospital because of his hunger strike. A medical report has established that he cannot appear tomorrow, because his condition needs medical attention," he said.

Saddam had been due to appear today before judges at the latest hearing in his prosecution for the alleged massacre of 148 members of Iraq's Shiite community in 1982 following an attempt on his life.

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