Thursday, April 23, 2009

IRAQ: SUICIDE BOMBS KILL SCORES

Two women react to the suicide bombing in Baghdad, 23 April 2009
The Baghdad bomb hit families waiting for food aid

Scores of people have been killed in two suicide bombings in Iraq.

In Baghdad, a suicide bomber killed at least 28 people - detonating a belt of explosives as police distributed aid to a crowd of homeless families.

At least 48 people, among them Iranian pilgrims, died when another suicide bomber blew up a restaurant in Baquba, in the north-east, officials say.

Violence has fallen sharply in the last year but insurgents continue to carry out attacks across Iraq.

Officials in Baghdad said the suicide bomber there infiltrated the crowd of displaced families as they received supplies from police in a square near the city centre.

The people had been made homeless by the sectarian conflict which erupted following the 2003 US-led invasion of Iraq.

At least five children were among the dead and more than 50 people were wounded, police say.

One man, injured by shrapnel from the blast, said a fire erupted as he waited for a bus.

Issam Salim, 35, told Associated Press news agency: "I turned around as I fell to the ground and saw a big fire break out with black smoke.

"Women and children are crying from pain beside me in the hospital. Some of them suffered burns."

In Baquba, in Diyala province, at least 48 people died when a suicide bomber struck a roadside restaurant packed with Iranian pilgrims, military officials said.

About 63 people were injured, and the restaurant demolished.

The BBC's Jim Muir in Baghdad says if the casualty figures in Baquba are confirmed, it will make this the deadliest such attack so far this year.

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Diyala has remained one of the two main areas of Iraq which have defied all efforts to bring them under control, our correspondent says

Meanwhile, Iraqi media quoted security officials saying they had arrested Abu Omar al-Baghdadi, the purported leader of the al-Qaeda in Iraq network.

However, defence ministry spokesman Maj Gen Mohammed al Askari told the BBC "we're not sure" when asked about the arrest.

On Wednesday, the US Department of Defense's top Middle East adviser said insurgent attacks would probably increase as US forces started to leave, but added that there was no plan to delay troop departures.

US President Barack Obama says the Pentagon will withdraw all but 35,000 to 50,000 troops from Iraq by the end of August 2010.

A joint security agreement requires all US troops to be out of Iraq by the end of 2011.

BBC NEWS REPORT.

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