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Blasts Kill At Least 64

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I would think there are better ways to get a political agenda before the Iraqi people than this wholesale wanton murder of innocents. Acts such as this are beyond "resistance". What are these "insurgents" so afraid of? Peace


Blasts Kill At Least 64 In Iraq's Holy Cities Attacks in Najaf, Karbala Appear to Target Shiites By Saad Sarhan and Anthony Shadid

Washington Post Foreign Service

Monday, December 20, 2004; Page A01



NAJAF, Iraq, Dec. 19 -- Explosives packed in vehicles tore through crowds gathered in Iraq's two most sacred Shiite cities Sunday, killing at least 64 people and wounding scores more in what many Iraqis fear may be a harbinger of the carnage promised by insurgents ahead of the country's Jan. 30 elections.


The bombings in Najaf and Karbala appeared designed to inflict the greatest number of civilian casualties possible, the explosives detonating within walking distance of the tombs of Shiite Islam's most revered saints. With macabre effect, the blasts demonstrated yet again that insurgents, usually operating in Baghdad and Sunni regions in central Iraq, could extend their deadly reach into the heartland of Iraq's Shiite majority.


The scenes that ensued have become all too familiar in Iraq: Streets were strewn with the twisted and charred wreckage of cars, as crowds wandered along the destruction with dazed, uncomprehending looks. Chunks of concrete were ripped from buildings and hurled onto ground soaked in rain, blood and cinders, framed in gray, stormy skies.


"These attacks aim to destroy the country and the holy sites. This is terrorism against Shiites," said Fadhil Salman, 41, the owner of the Ghufran Hotel in Najaf. "They want to foil the elections, but this won't deter us."


The bombings were the bloodiest episodes on a grim day across Iraq.


On one of Baghdad's most dangerous streets, about 30 gunmen ambushed a car carrying workers of the Iraqi electoral commission, dragged them into the street and then killed them. In a separate incident, previously unknown groups threatened to kill 10 Iraqis they said worked for a U.S. contractor. Images of the blindfolded men, in civilian clothes and seated before a wall, were broadcast on Arab satellite television.


The blasts in Najaf and Karbala occurred about an hour apart. The first tore through a crowded bus station in Karbala at 1:30 p.m., burning at least seven minibuses and shattering windows along the street. At least 14 people were killed and 50 were wounded, said Ali Hussein, a doctor at the city's Husseini Hospital.


Witnesses reached by telephone said body parts littered the streets. Firefighters tried to put out blazes ignited by the blast, and sirens echoed through the streets as ambulances ferried victims to hospitals. There were conflicting reports about whether the attack was carried out by a suicide bomber.


The explosives detonated about 300 yards from the twin, gold-domed shrines of Hussein and Abbas, the destination of hundreds of thousands of Shiite pilgrims from Iraq, Iran and elsewhere. A police training academy was in the vicinity, news agencies said. Such sites have been common insurgent targets.


The attack in Karbala followed a bombing Wednesday in the city that killed 10 people in an apparent attempt on the life of a representative of Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani, Iraq's most influential religious leader. The man was wounded in the legs.


The Sunday blast was the deadliest attack in Karbala since March 2, when a series of suicide bombings during Ashura, one of Shiite Islam's holiest days, killed more than 100 people.


"God saved us," said Abu Ahmed, an employee of Kawther Transportation Co., whose office was just 10 yards from the blast. He was cut by flying glass.


"All the dead and wounded were civilians," he said by telephone. "But this won't stop the people from returning to their normal lives."


At 2:30 p.m., the second car bomb detonated in Najaf's Maidan Square, a busy stretch of shops several hundred yards from the tan brick shrine of Ali, the son-in-law of the prophet Muhammad, considered by Shiites to be his heir. At least 50 were killed and 91 were wounded, said Hussein Hadi Ali, a doctor at Najaf General Hospital.


The explosion ruptured water pipes, flooding streets already soaked by a rare rainstorm, and cut the city's sporadic supply of electricity. The blast damaged buildings along a street that still bore scars from intense fighting between U.S. forces and a Shiite militia in August. For hours afterward, the site was cloaked in a haze of debris and smoke. Workers were still trying to pull bodies out of the wreckage into the evening, said Maj. Ghalib Jazaeri, the Najaf police chief.


There was no immediate claim of responsibility for either attack. But in recent days, Iraqi officials had received reports of insurgents headed from Fallujah to Najaf, near the Euphrates River about 45 miles southeast of Karbala.


U.S. and Iraqi officials have warned of a surge in violence ahead of the Jan. 30 election to choose a 275-member parliament. The Shiite religious leadership has sought to mobilize the community before the vote, seeing it as the best opportunity for long-oppressed Shiites to gain power that reflects their majority status.


Sistani has declared voting a duty, and a committee formed under his auspices negotiated an electoral list known as the United Iraqi Alliance that many expect to be the front-runner among 100 groups and individuals competing in the campaign.


But powerful groups among Iraq's Sunni minority, long the power brokers in the country, have urged a boycott, viewing the election as impossible as long as bloodshed continues, or illegitimate in the shadow of the U.S. military presence. The most militant groups have threatened to attack polling stations, candidates and voters.


"I swear to God, even if they burn all the elections centers, we will still go and vote," said Ali Waili, 29, a taxi driver reached by telephone in Karbala. "We have been mistreated for a long time, we have been tortured for a long time."


In the wake of the attacks, leading Shiite figures appealed for calm. The movement of Moqtada Sadr, a young cleric whose Mahdi Army militia has twice led uprisings against U.S. forces, condemned the attack and dismissed the prospect of sectarian strife.


"It is clear that there are some trying to impose conflict and civil war in Iraq," said Ali Yassiri, a top aide to Sadr. "Deceiving Iraqis is difficult. . . . These attacks will result in nothing but insistence on proceeding toward the Iraq of the future."


Ayatollah Mohammed Saeed Hakim, who with Sistani is one of the country's four most important clerics, called the bombing an attempt to "incite sectarian sedition."


A similar call for restraint was heard at the Ibn Taimiya Sunni Masjid in Baghdad, which was struck by at least two mortar rounds at 7 a.m. Four guards were wounded, one of them seriously; windows were shattered and wood paneling was damaged.


Those responsible "must be trying to incite sectarian strife, but this will not happen," said a Masjid caretaker, Ali Mashhadani.


The attack on the election commission workers in Baghdad occurred on Haifa Street, a busy downtown thoroughfare. About 30 militants throwing hand grenades and firing machine guns attacked the car as the employees headed to work, the commission said.


The street is one of the city's most notorious. For a time, black banners of the movement of Abu Musab Zarqawi, a Jordanian militant, hung over the street. Along with the banners were uniforms of the Iraqi National Guard -- a warning against Iraqis taking part in the country's fledgling security forces. The inability to control the street has proved a persistent source of frustration for the U.S. military and the interim Iraqi government.


The car was carrying five commission workers, two of whom escaped, said Adel Alami, a commission director. Witnesses quoted by the Associated Press, whose employee took photos of the attack, said insurgents opened fire on the vehicle before dragging people from it and forcing them to kneel in the street. The gunmen punched one of the men and then shot all three at point-blank range. The car was set on fire and the bodies left near the burning wreckage.


Alami acknowledged the threat to the commission's workers but said it was doing everything it could to protect them.


"We do what we can do," he said.


Shadid reported from Baghdad. Special correspondents Omar Fekeiki, Naseer Nouri and Khalid Saffar in Baghdad contributed to this report.


© 2004 The Washington Post Company "washingtonpost#####/wp-dyn/articles/A11450-2004Dec19.html"]washingtonpost####


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Looks like the occupation Agents are starting the Divide and rule tactics again :D.


the ppl of iraq all know this game now kudzu .

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I would think there are better ways to get a political agenda before the Iraqi people than this wholesale wanton murder of innocents. Acts such as this are beyond "resistance". What are these "insurgents" so afraid of?


Are you for real Kudzu? Seriously I really doubt some people know what is "resistance" in the first place. It comes from resist, you know, against the occupation for the people part? It doesn't go killing innocents :D


Indeed bro Al Faqeer I think they want to create a medium for a civil war. Insha'Allah their palns will fail.

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