Baghdad grinds to halt as bomb attacks blanket a reeling city
Sixteen bombs struck Baghdad Tuesday, prompting a snap curfew and shocking a city still coming to grips with a deadly attack Sunday on a Catholic church.
Sixteen bombs struck Baghdad on Tuesday, exploding near crowded coffee shops and a Shiite mosque and bringing a city still reeling from a major attack Sunday to a standstill.Skip to next paragraph
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Iraqi officials said at least 63 people were killed and almost 250 wounded in what security officials said were car bombs and roadside bombs – most of them detonated over the space of less than 90 minutes.
“We don’t know what’s happening right now,” says an Interior Ministry official who did not want to be identified. “There are so many explosions and so many reports right now, we’re overwhelmed.”
US officials said the coordinated attacks bore the hallmark of Al Qaeda in Iraq. An immediate curfew was put in place and roads closed after the string of explosions, which began just as many Iraqis were heading out shopping or for the evening.
In Fallujah, west of Baghdad, mosque loudspeakers announced a lock-down, with no vehicle traffic allowed. The Anbar provincial council said it was prepared to send police to Baghdad, and appealed to citizens to donate blood to the wounded.
The US military said it had reports of 13 to 17 explosions, with about 50 Iraqis killed and more than 100 wounded. In an unusual press release, it said its advisers, working with Iraqi Security Forces, had arrived at the sites of some of the explosions, which seemed to fit Al Qaeda in Iraq tactics.
The attacks come just two days after a team of gunmen stormed a Catholic church during Sunday mass, shooting priests and parishioners and holding others hostage before detonating suicide vests when Iraqi special forces stormed the building.
At least 57 people were dead and more than 75 wounded after the siege and rescue attempt Sunday. The four-hour standoff left more than two-thirds of the parishioners either dead or wounded in the deadliest attack on Christians in recent history.
Funeral service for church victims
At a nearby church in Baghdad’s Karrada district on Tuesday afternoon, senior government officials, security leaders and members of the close-knit Christian community gathered for the funeral of two young priests and 13 other victims.
Relatives of the victims sobbed, some of them fainting as pallbearers carried in the flag-draped coffins and laid them near the altar. Government officials, tribal leaders, and a broad array of political leaders filed in to pay their respects and show their solidarity. Iraqi snipers stood watch on the church roof and mourners were searched entering the building.
Senior Christian leaders addressing the congregation abandoned their normal caution to demand that the government improve security. Almost eight months after Iraqis went to the polls, political parties are still trying to form a new government – a vacuum that many Iraqis blame for fostering the ongoing violence.
“I demand that their promises not remain ink on paper and that they do everything possible to erase the pain by preventing such criminals from carrying out such actions against Iraq and Iraqis,” said the Archbishop of Babylon Athanase Matti Shaba Matoka. He called for more effort in protecting churches and mosques.