Bombings in Baghdad, mortar fire in nearby town kill 30 in Iraq

An Iraqi Muslim calls up his relative inside a Shiite mosque, destroyed in a car bomb attack, in Baghdad, Iraq, Wednesday, March 1, 2006. Three bombs exploded Wednesday within an hour in Baghdad.

The Associated Press
Published: Wednesday, March 1, 2006 at 11:07 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, March 1, 2006 at 11:07 a.m.

Bombings in Baghdad killed 26 people and four others died when mortar rounds slammed into their homes in a nearby town Wednesday, the second day of surging violence after authorities lifted a curfew that briefly calmed sectarian attacks.

Saddam Hussein's trial resumed, with the former leader telling judges he ordered the trials of Shiites who eventually were executed in the 1980s and said their lands should be confiscated, but he insisted that those actions were not criminal. The trial then was adjourned until March 12.

A spokesman for the powerful Association of Muslim Scholars blasted the government for failing to stanch sectarian attacks that have pushed the country closer to civil war.

"It is clear that the government and its security forces are incapable of taking any action," said Abdul-Salam al-Kubaisi, a spokesman for the Sunni clerical group.

Government forces should "do their duty and withdraw to the Green Zone," he said, implying Iraqi troops needed protection from American forces in the heavily fortified area of central Baghdad that houses the U.S. Embassy and the Iraqi government.

Al-Kubaisi denied Sunnis were behind the latest attacks, saying Shiite politicians and religious leaders were trying to inflame sectarian hatred "to make use of these events and everything in this country to achieve one goal - to serve their future interests."

Wednesday's most serious attack - a car bomb near a traffic police office in a primarily Shiite neighborhood in southeast Baghdad - killed at least 23 people and wounded 58, according to police Lt. Thaer Mahmoud.

About an hour earlier, a bomb hidden under a car detonated as a police patrol passed near downtown Tahrir Square, said Interior Ministry Maj. Falah al-Mohammedawi. Three civilians died and 15 were wounded.

In the eastern suburb Kamaliyah, residents alerted police to a suspicious vehicle, which exploded as police cleared the area, causing damage to nearby shops and houses but no casualties, al-Mohammedawi.

Also Wednesday, mortar shells fell on three houses in the mixed Sunni-Shiite town of Mahmoudiya, 20 miles south of Baghdad, killing three civilians, police Capt. Rashid al-Samaraie said. A fifth mortar shell slammed into the mixed Qadisiyah neighborhood in west Baghdad, killing a woman and wounding a child, Mahmoud said.

Iraq began to tilt seriously toward outright civil war after the Feb. 22 bombing of the revered Shiite Askariya shrine in the mainly Sunni city of Samarra, 60 miles north of Baghdad.

The government said 379 people had been killed and 458 injured as of Tuesday afternoon in nearly a week of sectarian violence tied to the Askariya bombing. Another 30 died Wednesday.

On Tuesday, President Bush said, "The people of Iraq and their leaders must make a choice. The choice is chaos or unity, the choice is a free society, or a society dictated by evil people who would kill innocents."

Bush said conversations with Iraqi leaders representing Shiite, Sunni and Kurdish factions helped reassure him that no larger role for the U.S. military is required and that the situation will not deteriorate into all-out civil war.

The violence also raised questions about U.S. plans to begin withdrawing troops this summer.

The U.S. military apparently prevented Tuesday's death toll from climbing even higher when soldiers of the 4th Infantry Division discovered a bomb placed near a mosque in Baghdad's Saydiyah neighborhood. There was slight damage to the mosque after a controlled explosion, the military said, adding that civil affairs teams would help with repairs.

On Tuesday, Sunnis and Shiites in Baghdad traded bombings and mortar fire mainly at religious targets, killing at least 68 people. Those attacks came after authorities on Monday lifted curfews and other restrictions.

At least six of Tuesday's attacks hit religious targets. In addition to those known to have been killed Tuesday, police found nine more bullet-riddled bodies, including a Sunni Muslim tribal sheik, off a road southeast of Baghdad. It was unclear when they had died.

Late Tuesday, police reported finding the body of Shiite cleric Hani Hadi handcuffed, blindfolded and shot in the head near a Sunni mosque in Baghdad's notorious Dora neighborhood.

In the Saddam trial, the chief prosecutor showed documents on an overhead screen outlining the bureaucracy behind a crackdown that led to the imprisonment of nearly 400 people and the executions of 148 people following a 1982 attempt on Saddam's life in the town of Dujail.

Three of the defendants denied sending handwritten letters to the Interior Ministry informing on Dujail families linked to a Shiite opposition militia accused in the assassination attempt.

Saddam also said his co-defendants should be freed because they simply were following his orders.


Associated Press writers Alexandra Zavis and Bassem Mroue contributed to this report from Baghdad.

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