At least 40 Shiite pilgrims were killed and 60 injured in a suicide bombing south of Baghdad Sunday in what was once known as the Sunni triangle of death.
The bombing in Iskandariyah came as hundreds of thousands of Shiites took to the streets to walk the 50 miles to the holy city of Karbala for Arbaeen. The ceremony on Thursday commemorates the anniversary of the 40th day following the martyrdom of Hussein, the grandson of the prophet Mohammed, a venerated figure in Shiite Islam.
As pilgrims stopped for water and food at a tent set up to serve them along their journey, a suicide bomber walked into the crowd and detonated, killing and wounding many of the pilgrims, said Muthanna Ahmed, spokesman for the police in Babil province. He expected the death toll to rise.
The above is from Leila Fadel and Yasseen Taha's "Suicide bomber blast kills 40 Iraqi pilgrims" (McClatchy Newspapers). Since they reported, the death toll has risen. Martha notes Amit R. Paley and Joshus Partlow's "Blast Kills at Least 63 Shiite Pilgrims in Iraq" (Washington Post):
The initial death toll of around 40 was raised to 63 on Monday by an official with the health department in Babil province, according to wire service reports.
Iraqi police said the attack was carried out by the Sunni insurgent group al-Qaeda in Iraq as part of a campaign meant to provoke the Sadrist movement into ending a cease-fire credited with reducing violence in Iraq, police spokesman Capt. Muthanna Ahmed said.
Pilgrims were eating lunch when a man detonated an explosive vest filled with ball bearings. Ahmed said the blast killed 45 people and wounded 68. U.S. officials put the death toll at 40.
One of the wounded, Ahmed Ali, a 12-year-old from Iskandariyah, was serving tea to pilgrims despite his mother's instructions that he go to school instead. Doctors were forced to amputate his left leg below the knee.
"What is his guilt?" his mother wailed. "He is just a little kid who should have been in school."
Iraqi police said the bomber appeared to have come from a nearby orchard and was able to enter the area because of tensions between Iraqi security forces and the Mahdi Army, the powerful militia of the Sadrist movement. Ahmed, the police spokesman, said the Mahdi Army had forced Iraqi forces to leave the area.
"We always told them that you do not have the capability to secure the area," he said. "But they would simply tell us that we should pack and leave."
Staying with the wounded eye witnesses, Solomon Moore and Sabrina Tavernise (New York Times) report:
Lying on a gurney in Hilla General Hospital, Ahmed Yassin, 28, said that he was ushering pilgrims into the tent along with his group of youth volunteers, which organizes the rest area every year for the thousands who make the journey.
"I was a couple of meters away from where they were searching people at the entrance of the tent," he said. About 50 volunteers were standing outside the shelter and more were inside finishing their meals and prayers before restarting their slow march southward, he said.
Mr. Yassin said he believed that the suicide bomber took advantage of the time of day, just after prayers, and the large crowd that had gathered there. Their shelter is one of the few available to pilgrims in the predominately Sunni region, he said, and therefore was unusually crowded.
"I saw a woman rush into the tent," said Mr. Yassin. "Then there was an explosion and I went unconscious."
Mr. Yassin’s face was streaked with blood and he spoke in a weak voice. Before he could finish his account, doctors wheeled his gurney into an operating room.
Another wounded volunteer, Fadel Khadhim, 23, said, "The smell of burned flesh is still stuck in my nose."
Casualties were taken to at least three overwhelmed hospitals in the area, where medical officials said they did not have enough supplies or doctors to treat them.
All the articles note the continued war in northern Iraq since Turkey invaded last week. Some reports assert the PKK shot down or claims they shot down a Turkish helicopter. McClatchy Newspapers notes that it's not just the PKK involved and that the Union of Muslim Clerics in Kurdistan is now involved (the chair uses the term "duty" when explaining the "edict" they issued calling for Iraqis to engage in the battle against Turkey) while the New York Times notes an edict from outside the region issued by Moqtada al-Sadr demanding Turkish troops withdraw from northern Iraq.
Though that seems big news, the Times doesn't front page it. Instead they offer a lot of crap on the front page including a US story on drivers under 18-years-old (the numbers are down!) and especially another edict from Church of Obama follower Jeff Zeleny who seems to make his calling foretelling the imminent demise of his personal savior Barack Obama. Are inspirational figures now at risk of being killed? Someone get guards to Tony Robbins! Now maybe there's been a huge shift in the country, but generally speaking, to be assassinated, you have to have promised something tangible. Gerald Ford was not killed by an assassin (despite multiple attempts) and yet, following those attempts and while still in the White House, the press didn't run these "We are fearful for his life" pieces. But there was a little more common sense in those days.
The next entry will probably be a talking entry. In part because I may try to fit in something a friend raised last night. If so, it will include politics. In fact, that will probably be the focus along with some war resistance news and, to be clear, politics will be 'presidential' as we explore those who assembled the Frankenstein monster that is Obama (warning, no kind words for Ralph Nader who is part of that).
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