WaPo : Twin Blasts Kill at Least 39 in Baghdad Commercial Area

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Twin Blasts Kill at Least 39 in Baghdad Commercial Area

By Joshua Partlow and Zaid Sabah | Washington Post Foreign Service | March 7, 2008

BAGHDAD, March 6 -- Two bombs blew up in quick succession along a commercial street in central Baghdad on Thursday, killing at least 39 people in the deadliest attack in the capital in more than a month.

The explosions were timed to coincide with the rush of early evening shoppers along al-Attar street in the commercial district of Karrada, a predominantly Shiite neighborhood and normally one of the safer areas in Baghdad. Some Iraqi officials described the devices as roadside bombs while others said they were car bombs. The U.S. military said one of the explosions may have been a suicide attack.

The second blast occurred around 7 p.m., about 10 minutes after the first, as ambulances arrived and crowds gathered to haul off the wounded and dead. The U.S. military said at least 39 people died, including one Iraqi police officer, while 58 people were wounded. An Iraqi military spokesman, Brig. Gen. Qassim al-Moussawi, said 42 were killed and 120 injured.

The bombings underscored the threats that persist in Baghdad. Even though these types of attacks have become more irregular in recent months, they are still an ever-present risk for residents of the capital. The twin bombings were the deadliest attack since two suicide bombers struck at pet markets Feb. 1 and killed almost 100 people.

While Thursday's bombings are still under investigation, the location and method of the attack suggest they could be the work of the Sunni insurgent group al-Qaeda in Iraq.

"A lot of innocent people were killed tonight," said Walaa Ahmed Ali, 27, who owns al-Nassir barbershop near al-Attar street. "They are targeting us because they believe we are infidels -- that we are going to hell and they are going to heaven when they kill us. They are brainwashed."

For more than an hour and a half after the bombings, ambulance crews and police officers, in cars and on motorcycles, worked to ferry the wounded to nearby hospitals. U.S. soldiers arrived after the Iraqi security forces and helped secure the area.

Ali said one of his regular customers, a 25-year-old man, was killed shortly after he came in for a haircut. After returning home for a shower, the man went back out to walk along al-Attar.

"We tried to reach him on his phone but we failed," he said. "Then his family realized something happened to him." They found his corpse at Ibn al-Nafis hospital.

"They chose this time to do their ugly crime because it's Thursday and a lot of people go to Karrada for shopping" before the Friday holiday, Ali said.