Deadly Blasts Target Shiites In Baghdad
MELISSA BLOCK, host:
To Iraq now, where a string of bombings today shattered the relative calm Baghdad has enjoyed for months. Six separate explosions across the city killed 34 people and wounded more than 100, all in predominantly Shiite neighborhoods. Some in Baghdad fear today's bloodshed threatens a return to the horrific levels of violence Iraq witnessed in recent years.
NPR's Quil Lawrence reports.
QUIL LAWRENCE: The deadliest of today's attacks ripped apart a marketplace in the sprawling Shiite slum called Sadr City. The dead and wounded flooded the local hospital. Emergency workers rushed the wounded inside on stretchers as worried family members arrived, looking for their loved ones.
(Soundbite of a weeping woman)
LAWRENCE: A mother cried over the body of her daughter, one of several children killed in today's wave of bombs, which for the most part, aimed indiscriminately at civilians in Shiite parts of the capital.
Mr. ABU MOHAMMED(ph): (Speaking foreign language)
LAWRENCE: Across the street from Sadr City Hospital, a restaurant worker named Abu Mohammed claimed the attacks are vengeance for the Iraqi government's crackdown on Sunni militias known as the Sahwa.
Iraq's prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki, a Shiite, recently arrested a prominent Sahwa leader, prompting armed clashes in Baghdad. But Maliki also previously shut down the Mahdi army, a thuggish Shiite militia that had dominated Sadr City. Many here celebrated the departure of the Mahdi army but after today, 22-year-old resident Hassan Jassim(ph) wants them back.
Mr. HASSAN JASSIM: (Through Translator) Now that the Mahdi army is gone, Sunnis started coming in and doing whatever they want.
LAWRENCE: American officials have repeatedly warned that the security gains made in Iraq over the past two years are fragile and reversible without rapid progress toward political reconciliation. Today's violence raised an alarm that time is running out.
Quil Lawrence, NPR News, Baghdad.
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