Wed, Mar 01, 2006 - Page 7 News List

Bombing wave as Saddam's trial reopens

CASUALTY TOLL At least 36 people were killed and 84 wounded in three of five bomb attacks in Baghdad yesterday, while nine bodies were found in Baqubah

AGENCIES , BAGHDAD AND ANKARA, TURKEY

Five explosions, including two car bombs and a suicide bomber, rocked Baghdad yesterday morning ahead of the resumption of former president Saddam Hussein's trial, killing at least 36 people and injuring scores, police said.

Saddam's two lead defense counsel walked out within minutes of the trial restarting after a two-week adjournment when requests for another adjournment and the removal of the chief judge were rejected.

Officials said court-appointed lawyers would defend Saddam, as they had done since a previous walkout a month ago.

Saddam ended a hunger strike for "health reasons," lawyers said before returning to the trial, which has been troubled by charges of political bias and killings of two defense attorneys.

Earlier, a man wearing an explosives belt blew himself up at a gas station in the eastern New Baghdad neighborhood, killing 23 people and injuring 51, said Interior Ministry official Major Falah al-Mohammedawi.

A car bomb targeting a police patrol in the same neighborhood killed nine people and injured 17 -- all civilians -- said police Lieutenant Alu Abbas and medic Rahim al-Waedi.

Another car bomb exploded near a Shiite mosque in the crowded southeastern Karada neighborhood, killing four people and injuring 16, al-Mohammedawi said. The mosque was closed for repairs at the time.

A fourth blast took place in an open area near the national theater, al-Mohammedawi said. Initial police reports indicated a mortar blast. There were no reports of casualties.

A Sunni mosque in Baghdad was also damaged by the fifth bomb, police said.

Activity on Baghdad's streets had been returning to normal on the second day since the lifting of a three-day curfew imposed to try to stem violence that killed more than 200 people in the wake of last Wednesday's bombing that destroyed a Shiite shrine in Samarra.

In other developments, police found nine bodies near the religiously mixed city of Baqubah, scene of several sectarian attacks since a suspected al-Qaeda bomb destroyed the Samarra shrine.

The dome of the shrine Saddam had erected over his father's grave in his hometown of Tikrit was damaged yesterday, residents said, and windows and doors blown out.

Police and local government officials said explosives planted at the tomb in the cemetery went off around 6am.

Meanwhile, a duty manager of Baghdad morgue said his unit had received 309 bodies since last Wednesday, most of them victims of violence. Morgue data showed this was double the average -- it handled 10,080 bodies last year -- but manager Qais Hassan denied a report that Baghdad morgue had taken in more than 1,300 bodies in a week.

Iraqi and US officials have disputed police tallies of more than 200 killed in the first four days after the Samarra bombing and said on Saturday only 119 had died across Iraq by then.

Two British soldiers were killed and another wounded in an attack in southern Iraq yesterday. US forces reported the death of an American soldier on Monday west of Baghdad.

In other news, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan yesterday called on world leaders to help defuse sectarian violence in Iraq. Speaking in parliament hours before a meeting with Iraqi Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari, also called on Iraqi leaders to avoid provocations and work together to form a broad-based government that would avoid the supremacy of one group over others.

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