Baghdad Suicide Bombings Kill, Wound Scores of Iraqis

Four separate suicide bombings on Monday left forty Iraqis dead and more than one hundred wounded in a wave of devastating attacks clearly intended to derail the new US-Iraqi security plan.

One of the bombings, at Baghdad’s Mansour Hotel, seems to have targeted a meeting of the Anbar Salvation Council, made up of Anbar tribal chiefs determined to drive al Qaeda out of their province. A suicide bomber slipped past two external security checkpoints and another one inside before making his way to the bustling hotel lobby. Moments after six tribal chiefs arrived in the lobby and ordered tea, the bomber blew himself up, killing 12 people and wounding fifteen.

Among the dead were the six tribal chiefs in the lobby (including Fassal al-Gawud, a former governor of Anbar); Hussein Shaalan, a Shiite Member of Parliament; and Rahim al-Maliki, an Iraqi poet who worked as a news anchor and producer for the state-run Iraqiyah television station.

The Mansour Hotel is located on the west bank of the Tigris River (now mostly Sunni territory) half a mile from the heavily fortified Green Zone. It houses the Chinese Embassy, several Western news organizations and a number of Members of Parliament from various regions around Iraq.

The day’s bloodshed started at 6.30 am when a suicide bomber slammed a black Chevy Caprice into a group of police cadets gathered outside the Hilla police academy 60 miles south of Baghdad. Sunni insurgents have frequently targeted Shiite pilgrims traveling through Hilla as they made their way south from Baghdad to the holy cities of Karbala and Najaf. Yesterday’s explosion left 8 police recruits dead and 31 wounded. They were one week away from graduation.

About two hours later, another suicide bomber ploughed an explosives laden oil tanker into the police headquarters in the town of Baiji, 150 miles north of Baghdad. The blast killed 18 police and inmates and wounded 55; it was so powerful it sent out a fireball that razed a row of shops across the street and damaged other nearby buildings, including a school.

Thirty year-old Ahmed Abdullah, who owns a tire repair shop across the street from the police station, told the Washington Post, “A ball of fire came out of the police station and hit the shops across the street. It was just like a horror movie. The last thing I remember is that my clothes and hair caught fire.” Mr Abdullah said that he and others were trapped in their shops, but were eventually rescued and taken to a local hospital.

Forty-five minutes later, a suicide car bomber rammed into a US-Iraqi checkpoint in the town of Siniya, nine miles west of Baiji. Two Iraqi soldiers were killed and 3 wounded in that attack.

In the aftermath of yesterday’s bloodbath, local leaders maintained a grim determination to defeat al Qaeda, whom they blamed for the bombings.

Sheikh Mahmud Daham of Anbar, a meeting delegate for the Anbar Salvation Council at the Mansour Hotel, told AFP that al Qaeda was targeting tribes that are fighting terrorism. “Iraq will stay standing, no matter what you do,” he said. “We are not afraid of you and we are going to continue fighting you.”

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