Insurgents Link Bombings to Recent Raids A wave of attacks in the Iraqi capital leave at least 150 people dead and hundreds more wounded. Al Qaeda in Iraq claimed responsibility for the bombings and other violence, saying it was in retaliation for a U.S.-Iraqi offensive against insurgents in the country's north.

Insurgents Link Bombings to Recent Raids

Insurgents Link Bombings to Recent Raids

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A wave of attacks in the Iraqi capital leave at least 150 people dead and hundreds more wounded. Al Qaeda in Iraq claimed responsibility for the bombings and other violence, saying it was in retaliation for a U.S.-Iraqi offensive against insurgents in the country's north.

A U.S. army medic, left, treats a wounded Iraqi man in the northern town of Tal Afar, where Iraqi and U.S. troops have been fighting Sunni rebels for days. Reuters hide caption

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MELISSA BLOCK, host:

In Iraq today, the insurgency demanded to be heard. More than 150 people were killed and hundreds more wounded in a string of bombings and ambushes in Baghdad. It was one of the deadliest days in the Iraqi capital since the war began. The al-Qaeda group in Iraq declare war against Iraqi Shiites. That message was conveyed in the form of a recording on a Web site attributed to the group's leader, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. It said the nationwide campaign of bombings is in retaliation for a joint American-Iraqi military offensive against insurgents in the north. NPR's Anne Garrels has more from Baghdad.

ANNE GARRELS reporting:

The first and most serious attack took place in Baghdad's predominantly Shiite Kadhamiya district, where large numbers of laborers typically gather in hopes of being hired for the day; at least 88 were killed. At Neumann Hospital, 41-year-old Nadim Kharkhan(ph) was among the more than 200 wounded. He lost both his legs.

Mr. NADIM KHARKHAN (Bombing Victim): If I told you, American, how I feel, (Foreign language spoken)...

GARRELS: He says once an American convoy passed, a man pulled up and asked those who wanted to work stand near the car, so people crowded around. The car exploded. Iraqi officials say a Libyan and a Palestinian connected to the bombing have been arrested.

Unidentified Woman: (Foreign language spoken)

Unidentified Man: (Foreign language spoken)

GARRELS: Those hit were among the poorest in the capital, and they were left to wonder: Why them? The hospital was awash in blood, the staff overwhelmed and underequipped, and they were nervous about reports of suspicious cars circling the hospital compound.

Explosions continued across the city throughout the day, more than a dozen in all. Most targeted Shiite areas, but Iraqi and US military convoys were also hit. Officials say many Iraqi troops were killed and 10 American soldiers injured. Iraqi reinforcements were ambushed when they came to help. Traffic backed up. Houses across the city lost glass yet again. Family members called relatives in a panic. Many Iraqis seemed on the verge of tears, feeling they're being swept into a civil war they don't want. Like many of the Shiite wounded, Tanmehr Hussein Salman(ph), an unemployed worker, made a distinction between ordinary Iraqis and extremists bent on dividing the nation.

Mr. TANMEHR HUSSEIN SALMAN (Bombing Victim): (Through Translator) They know this is sectarian conflict, but I hope there will be no conflict. I hope we can defeat all those doing this and remain patient.

GARRELS: The car bombs are just the most dramatic of ongoing attacks. By noon, Baghdad's morgue reported 53 gunshot victims. Regular shooting in the Hariyah district(ph) has 38-year-old Monah(ph) desperate to leave. She, too, blames both Shiite and Sunni extremists for a cycle of revenge murders that she says the government, with all its vaunted assaults on the insurgents, has failed to stop.

MONAH: (Through Translator) No one knows. No one dares say anything. These people come in with cars and you can't see their faces. By 8 PM, everyone is so terrified, you don't find anyone in the street, not even police, so they can carry out their operations.

GARRELS: While al-Qaeda claims the attacks are in retaliation for the ongoing assault on insurgent strongholds in the north, tensions have also risen over the drafting of the new constitution.

Mr. HUSSEIN AL-SHAHRISTANI (Shiite Lawmaker): (Foreign language spoken)

GARRELS: Today, a leading Shiite lawmaker, Hussein al-Shahristani, said the final version has been completed and presented to the United Nations to print and distribute. The document is to be put to a referendum in mid-October. But last-minute changes fall well short of demands by Sunni lawmakers who wanted the country's Arab identity clearly defined and the concept of federalism struck from the document. They fear the new constitution will institutionalize their minority status, and they argue federalism could ultimately lead to the disintegration of this multiethnic nation. Anne Garrels, NPR News, Baghdad.

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