A car bomb exploded yesterday near a Baghdad junior high school for girls, killing six people, a day after 49 Iraqis died in a string of explosions, suicide attacks and drive-by shootings.
Yesterday's blast occurred near eastern Baghdad's well-known Withaq Square, a Christian neighborhood in the Alwiyah residential area, at about 10:30am, destroying at least three cars and damaging several buildings.
It came as the US military announced that a two-day operation with more than 2,000 Iraqi soldiers and police, their largest-ever joint campaign in the Baghdad area, had rounded up 428 suspected insurgents. The US military said the raid was aimed at quelling the upsurge in car bomb attacks in the capital, which have averaged almost one a day this month.
The operation, code-named "Squeeze Play," kicked off Sunday night and Monday involved 1,500 US and 2,500 Iraqi soldiers, including 600 commandos from the interior ministry's special Wolf Brigade, US military spokesman Major Webster Wright told reporters.
The hundreds arrested were taken to a special internment camp set up at a former army base near the international airport where they were housed in tents and disused buildings, Wright said.
Those detained included at least two Syrians, two Egyptians and two Yemenis, he said.
But insurgents continued to wreak havoc in the Iraqi capital despite the crackdown centering on the Abu Ghraib area targeting militants though responsible for multiple attacks on the US-detention facility there and the road linking downtown to the international airport.
Residents called police about a suspicious-looking car parked opposite the Dijlah Junior High School for Girls in Alwiyah. As bomb disposal experts approached the vehicle, it exploded and killed six bystanders, said police Captain Husham Ismael.
Three civilians and one policeman were also injured but none of the school's students were believed to be among the casualties.
"May God seek revenge for those who were killed or injured," an elderly woman screamed outside a hospital were casualties were being brought.
"We hope that such killers be killed or perished as they kill our youth. Those killers are against homeland, against Islam. May God punish them," she said.
At least 615 people, including 49 US troops, have been killed since April 28, when Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari announced his new Shiite-dominated government. Washington hopes his government will eventually train police and an army capable of securing Iraq and allowing the withdrawal of coalition troops.
Iraq's National Assembly convened yesterday and is expected to announce the head of a committee charged with drafting Iraq's new constitution, which must be drawn up by mid-August and put to a referendum by October.
Amid a wave of sectarian violence, there have been calls for greater Sunni participation in drafting the constitution. Just 17 Sunnis are in the assembly following a decision by many Sunnis not to participate in Jan. 30 elections, either by choice or fear of insurgents.