With U.S. forces imposing tough security measures to thwart car bombings, Iraqi insurgents are increasingly using women and teenagers as suicide bombers, a trend that on Friday led to the worst daily death toll in Baghdad since August.
At least 65 people were killed and nearly 150 were wounded when explosions ripped through two crowded Baghdad pet markets. The attacks, which occurred within 15 minutes of each other, appeared to be the sixth and seventh suicide bombings in Iraq by women or teenagers since Nov. 27, though there was some uncertainty about whether one of Friday's blasts might have been caused by a roadside bomb.
Witnesses said the bombers were women who'd slipped into the markets without being searched, as Iraqi security forces include few women and men aren't allowed to search women. Iraqi police are trying to recruit more female members.
One Iraqi official who speaks for Qassim al Moussawi, the spokesman of the Baghdad security plan, said the women might have been mentally retarded and forced to wear suicide vests that were detonated remotely.
Other police officials expressed skepticism about the claim, saying it was made too quickly for any investigation to have taken place, but Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki seemed to echo that version in his condemnation of the attacks.
The above is from Leila Fadel and Hussein Kadhim's "Iraqi insurgents find female bombers can skirt security" (McClatchy Newspapers). Tina Susman's "Scores die in Iraq bombings" (Los Angeles Times) offers details post-bombing:
The Ghazel pet market is a favorite place to spend Fridays. It also is a favorite target of insurgents looking to inflict high casualties. This was the second bombing there since late November and the fifth since June 2006.
Ahmed Jimaa Badr, 30, was at the market Friday against the wishes of his wife and parents, who felt that security still was too shaky. But Badr, whose hobby is raising pigeons, wanted to buy some new birds. He chose four and entered a pigeon expert's shop to ensure that one of the birds was a male, for breeding purposes.
"When the man was examining the bird, a very huge explosion rocked the area," Badr said. The shop windows shattered, and the bird flew away.
"I saw white smoke and a hill of bodies, and a lot of animals."
The smell of gunpowder mixed with that of burned flesh, and the heat from the blast sent the temperature inside the little shop soaring, "as if it is July," said Badr, who helped evacuate wounded people to hospitals.
In the Ghazel blast, police said at least 37 people died and 83 were injured.
On the second bombing, Stephen Farrell and Mudhafer al-Husaini offer this in "Two Bombings Wreak Carnage in Iraqi Capital" (New York Times):
About 15 minutes later the second bomb exploded at the New Baghdad bird market four miles away, killing 27 people, the police said. Army units sealed off the market, a parade of dilapidated shops where bloodstained feathers clung to broken cages and shop windows were secured with layers of thick blastproof wiring.
Stall holders there had just received news of the Ghazil bombing. "We were just talking about the first bomb when it happened," said Abbas Muhammad Awad, 54, a pigeon seller. "There was not enough time for people to leave because it was only 5 or 10 minutes between the bombs. Many kids were killed because children usually gather around the bird sellers."
Two topics noted in the stories above, the need for parity among female and male police officers in Iraq and Mosul. Mosul? Over sixty people died in last week's bombing. Only Richard A. Oppel Jr. noted that large number this week. (The Iraqi government and US authorities had been playing the numbers down immediately after the Mosul bombing.) The number for yesterday's Baghdad bombings are still varying.
Meanwhile IVAW is organizing a March 2008 DC event:
In 1971, over one hundred members of Vietnam Veterans Against the War gathered in Detroit to share their stories with America. Atrocities like the My Lai massacre had ignited popular opposition to the war, but political and military leaders insisted that such crimes were isolated exceptions. The members of VVAW knew differently.
Over three days in January, these soldiers testified on the systematic brutality they had seen visited upon the people of Vietnam. They called it the Winter Soldier investigation, after Thomas Paine's famous admonishing of the "summer soldier" who shirks his duty during difficult times. In a time of war and lies, the veterans who gathered in Detroit knew it was their duty to tell the truth.
Over thirty years later, we find ourselves faced with a new war. But the lies are the same. Once again, American troops are sinking into increasingly bloody occupations. Once again, war crimes in places like Haditha, Fallujah, and Abu Ghraib have turned the public against the war. Once again, politicians and generals are blaming "a few bad apples" instead of examining the military policies that have destroyed Iraq and Afghanistan.
Once again, our country needs Winter Soldiers.
In March of 2008, Iraq Veterans Against the War will gather in our nation's capital to break the silence and hold our leaders accountable for these wars. We hope you'll join us, because yours is a story that every American needs to hear.
Click here to sign a statement of support for Winter Soldier: Iraq & Afghanistan
March 13th through 16th are the dates for the Winter Soldier Iraq & Afghanistan Investigation. Dee Knight (Workers World) notes, "IVAW wants as many people as possible to attend the event. It is planning to provide live broadcasting of the sessions for those who cannot hear the testimony firsthand. 'We have been inspired by the tremendous support the movement has shown us,' IVAW says. 'We believe the success of Winter Soldier will ultimately depend on the support of our allies and the hard work of our members'." As part of their fundraising efforts for the event, they are holding houseparties and a recent one in Boston featured both IVAW's Liam Madden and the incomprable Howard Zinn as speakers.
NOW on PBS aired last night in most markets (but check local listings in case it airs -- or reairs -- at another time in your area). The focus was "middle class families on the edge of collapse" and politicians. You can view the program online. Here's their description:
Leading up to the Super Tuesday primaries, polls indicate that the economy ranks as the number one issue on the minds of Americans, beating out immigration, global warming, even terrorism. NOW on PBS heads to America's heartland - Illinois - to investigate rampant anxiety among America's middle class. How did families on the edge of financial collapse get to this point, and which presidential candidate do they think can restore economic hope and stability?
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