Scores killed in twin Baghdad marketplace attacks

Saturday, February 2, 2008

On Friday, twin attacks in Iraq killed at least 72 people and wounded another 149. Separated by twenty minutes, the bombings targeted two marketplaces in Baghdad shortly before the call to Friday prayers.

These attacks were unlike suicide bombings in that the bombs were dynamite and ball bearings strapped to two women. These human bombs were then detonated remotely using mobile phone. The identities of the women have not been released.

Major-General Qassim Moussawi, spokesman for the Iraqi military in Baghdad said, "The operation was carried out by two booby-trapped mentally disabled women." He did not explain how the forensic evidence could have proven the mental disability of the women. "We found the mobiles used to detonate the women," he said.

Moussawi said this of the investigation: "Forensic and bomb squad experts as well as the people and traders of al-Shorja area of the carpet market have confirmed that the woman who was blown-up there today was often in the area and was mentally disabled... In the New Baghdad area the shop owners and customers of the pet market confirmed that the woman who was blown-up there was mentally disabled as well."

Most people who visit this market are poor and just want to enjoy themselves but they came and got killed.

—Hassan Salman

An aide to Moussawi suggested the claims were based on eye-witness reports. He also said authorities believe the women were unaware of plans to detonate the explosives.

Lt. Col. Steve Stover, a spokesman for the multinational force in Baghdad, said, "By targeting innocent Iraqis, they show their true demonic character. They care nothing for the Iraqi people; they want to subjugate them and forcefully create a greater Islamic sharia state."

Later, Stover told Reuters that the U.S. military was not aware of evidence to suggest the women were mentally handicapped. Pentagon reports on the attacks also lacked any reference to the mental condition of the women.

"There is nothing they won't do if they think it will work in creating carnage and the political fallout that comes from that," the U.S. Ambassador Ryan Crocker said. He blamed the attacks on Al-Qaeda in Iraq.

U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said the bombings underlined "the absolute bankruptcy and brutality" of those who carried them out. "The Iraqi people have been right to turn against these terrible, violent people in their midst who will do anything."

Forty-five were killed at the Ghazl pet market, and 27 were killed in New Baghdad. The Ghazl market is only open on Fridays and had remained popular despite two attacks in 2007. Both attacks were centered on pet markets.

"Most people who visit this market are poor and just want to enjoy themselves but they came and got killed," said Hassan Salman, who sells bird seed at the Ghazl market.

The attacks are the deadliest in Iraq since the al-Khilani Mosque bombing which killed 87 people on June 19, 2007.