Iraq Update: Baghdad Blasts Kill at Least 150 More than a dozen explosions ripped through Baghdad Wednesday, killing at least 150 people and wounding more than 500. Alex Chadwick gets an update from Edmund Sanders of The Los Angeles Times, reporting from Baghdad.

Iraq Update: Baghdad Blasts Kill at Least 150

Iraq Update: Baghdad Blasts Kill at Least 150

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More than a dozen explosions ripped through Baghdad Wednesday, killing at least 150 people and wounding more than 500. Alex Chadwick gets an update from Edmund Sanders of The Los Angeles Times, reporting from Baghdad.

ALEX CHADWICK, host:

From NPR West, this is DAY TO DAY. I'm Alex Chadwick.

Coming up, the hearings for chief justice nominee John Roberts.

First, the lead: Iraq. More than 150 people were killed today, more than 500 wounded, in a series of bombings in Baghdad. More than a dozen bombings hit the Iraqi capital; the first and worst was in a heavily Shiite neighborhood. Also today, a series of executions carried out in a Sunni town north of Baghdad. With us now from Baghdad is Los Angeles Times reporter Edmund Sanders.

Ed, a heavy toll of deaths for single day, the worst since major combat ended more than two years ago. What happened in this first bombing anyway?

Mr. EDMUND SANDERS (Los Angeles Times): Well, there's been a relative lull and so this really shocked everyone. And it started very early--around 7:00 this morning--with a major explosion in a largely Shiite area called Kadhimiya. It struck in a place where day laborers, basically construction workers, come, hang out and hope to be hired by construction managers and supervisors who usually drive up in a truck and a bunch of guys jump in the back and go off to the site. That's what the car bomber disguised himself as. He drove up in a truck, hundreds of people sort of swarmed around and then he detonated the car bomb.

CHADWICK: And then there was a series of bombings that followed that.

Mr. SANDERS: What happened after that we're still trying to piece together. It was quite a chaotic day. Some reports say as many as a dozen other car bombs--sometimes those car bombs just turn out to be other explosions, but possibly 12 other car bombs all around the city targeting a US convoy in one case, an Iraqi police car in another case, a bridge, Really, the biggest--the most violent day in Baghdad in quite a number of weeks and the deadliest car bomb--just that one car bomb alone was the deadliest ever in Baghdad.

CHADWICK: Here's a quote from your piece that's posted online this morning at the LA Times site. This is from one of the job seekers at the site of this first bombing. Quote, "We are fed up with the government. They're doing nothing. They should exterminate those terrorists. If the government can't do it, we will do it ourselves."

Mr. SANDERS: Yeah, just a lot of frustration and especially these attacks that are so--in fact, really just civilians, people out trying to earn money and very low pay to begin with. A lot of anger and a lot of frustration with Jafari's government and his perceived inability to really rein in the terrorists. Now this happened as he has, in fact, launched a major offensive in northern Iraq in Tall'Afar and the two could be related. In fact, some al-Qaeda insurgents, or terrorists claiming to be associated with al-Qaeda, have been warning on Web sites for the last few days that some attacks would come and today, posted another message taking responsibility for some of the car bombs in Baghdad today.

CHADWICK: Let me go on to this other thing. North of Baghdad, there's this town, Taji; it's mainly a Sunni town. Seventeen men were arrested and taken out and executed, and the people who carried this out were wearing Iraqi national guard uniforms and driving government-issued vehicles. What is the thinking there when something like this happens? Might these be government national guardsmen taking revenge on Sunnis, or do people think these are just terrorists who've stolen these items?

Mr. SANDERS: I think--and in this case, the additional information, the victims in that case were actually Shiites in a Sunni neighborhood. Whether or not these people were ING--one would certainly hope that they were not ING, but it's causing a lot of stress and a lot of confusion for ordinary people because people show up at your house wearing uniforms in official cars, they tell you you're under arrest and they end up assassinated just minutes later. So it's causing a lost of confidence certainly in the security forces and that could be the goal of insurgents.

CHADWICK: Ed, let me just ask you. Over this last two weeks, of course, we've been covering mostly Hurricane Katrina and the aftermath of that. How are things going generally in Iraq? There's a referendum on the constitution coming in about a month. What's going on?

Mr. SANDERS: Generally, things seem to be normalizing a little bit in the last few weeks. That's why these attacks came as such a shock. But what has been happening generally was a lot of recovering and healing from the terrible bridge stampede that killed a thousand people and then also working on getting the final touches to the constitution. They say they've sent the final draft of the constitution to the UN for printing. Again, that could have played a role in these attacks because the Sunni Arabs in Iraq are still very opposed to much of--many of the provisions in the constitution, and a lot of their concerns were not addressed in the negotiations and now apparently won't be. So the fact that the constitution is now heading for this October 15th referendum and was really finalized today might also have been a factor in the violence.

CHADWICK: Edmund Sanders, reporting for the LA Times, joining us from Baghdad.

Ed, thank you.

Mr. SANDERS: Thank you.

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