Mon, Nov 20, 2006 - Page 1 News List

Four bombings kill at least 33 in Iraq, wound scores

AGENCIES , HILLA AND BAGHDAD, IRAQ

A suicide bomber killed 22 people in Hilla yesterday by offering poor Shiite workers day-labor jobs and then detonating explosives packed inside his minibus as the crowd gathered around it.

In Baghdad, three almost simultaneous explosions, at least two of them car bombs, killed at least 10 people and wounded 45 at a bus station in the mainly Shiite eastern part of the city.

A security source said the three car bombs were set off within minutes of each other at the bus station in Al-Mashtal neighborhood.

A spokesman for police in the mainly Shiite city of Hilla, 100km south of the capital, said 49 people were wounded in the early morning blast there, when shrapnel tore through the expectant crowd as laborers jostled to come closer.

The tactic has been used before by al-Qaeda-linked Sunni militants at locations where men congregate in the hope of casual work.

"I was standing with other laborers when the minibus came and the driver asked for laborers. Everybody ran towards him and then he detonated his vehicle," Ali Mohammed said as he lay in a local hospital, his left thigh bandaged.

His life was probably saved by the fact that he was slow in reaching the vehicle and was standing at the back of the crowd.

"I saw the fire and collapsed on the ground," he said.

Many of the wounded were standing well away from the blast.

"We are poor people. We've done nothing wrong," Saja Kadhem, who owns a shop near the blast site, said as doctors bandaged a shrapnel wound to his head.

"I saw the laborers crowding around and then the vehicle blew up," he said.

Yesterday's blast followed the killing of a prominent Shiite Islamist politician on Saturday in what looked like a sectarian assassination. Ali al-Adhadh of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq was shot dead with his wife as he drove in mainly Sunni west Baghdad.

Meanwhile, Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem was due in Baghdad yesterday for a two-day trip and talks with Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki.

Earlier this month Muallem said Damascus was ready to engage in a "dialogue" with the US in a bid to achieve stability in Iraq and the region.

"We support the political process in Iraq and the Iraqi government and we are against a single drop of Iraqi blood being shed," he said after a meeting of Arab foreign ministers in Cairo.

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