Iraq Market Bombing Takes High Toll At least 135 people were killed Saturday in an attack on a Baghdad market. It was among the deadliest bombings since the Iraq war began.

Iraq Market Bombing Takes High Toll

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REBECCA ROBERTS, host:

In Baghdad, Iraqis are still counting the casualties from a massive truck bomb yesterday evening. At least 135 people were killed and more than 205 were wounded when a truck packed with explosives was driven into a crowded market in a predominantly Shiite neighborhood. It was the single deadliest toll from a bombing since the fall of Saddam Hussein. It was also the latest in a series of massive attacks ahead of a major military offensive expected to begin tomorrow.

NPR's Jamie Tarabay joins us now from Baghdad.

Jamie, what can you tell us about this latest bombing?

JAMIE TARABAY: Today, the hospitals are still overwhelmed, people are being asked to donate blood, and the morgues are full. Today, Iraqis are burying their dead. Many of those killed were Shiites, so we're seeing relatives strap wooden coffins to the roofs of minivans and drive down to the Shiite holy cities of Karbala and Najaf, where they'll be buried. There's been no claim of responsibility, but many here blame Sunni insurgents, all part of what they think is, you know, their aim at stoking sectarian tensions and keeping this conflict going.

In fact, today in parliament Shiite lawmakers put forward a proposal to expel Arabs from the country. You know, Iraqi and American officials say that Arabs belonging to al-Qaida and other extremist groups have infiltrated the country and are believed to be behind many of these attacks. So it's not clear how - what kind of progress this proposal will have in parliament, but this is something that they're doing in reaction to this latest bombing.

ROBERTS: And has there been more violence since?

TARABAY: There's been clashes in central Baghdad between insurgents and the Iraqi Army. A car bomb killed at least four people and wounded seven. There were drive-by shootings in two different cases in the capital. Two people working for a private cell phone company were shot and killed. And people working for the social ministry were victims of a drive-by shooting; two were killed and three others were wounded.

ROBERTS: This military offensive is expected to begin tomorrow, Monday. What can we expect to see this week?

TARABAY: What we'll see this week is the beginning of those boots on the ground that we've been hearing so much about; 20,000 U.S. troops and reportedly their equal number of Iraqi forces. We're not going to see them all at once but there will clearly be an increased presence on the street. They're going to set up outposts in each of the districts in Baghdad to be there on the scene to respond to situations quicker. The aim of this offensive is to go through neighborhood-by-neighborhood to clear them of militants and insurgents, and to stay there and to keep security. So this isn't something that's going to take place immediately, that we're going to see immediate results. This operation is going to go on for months.

ROBERTS: NPR's Jamie Tarabay in Baghdad. Thank you, Jamie.

TARABAY: Thank you.

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