BAGHDAD — Roadside bombs killed eight American soldiers in separate attacks Sunday in Diyala province and Baghdad, and a car bomb claimed 30 more lives in a wholesale food market in a part of the Iraqi capital where sectarian tensions are on the rise.
In all, at least 95 Iraqis were killed or found dead nationwide Sunday, police reported. They included 12 policemen in Samarra, among them the city’s police chief, who died when Sunni insurgents launched a suicide car bombing and other attacks on police headquarters.
The deadliest attack against U.S. forces occurred in Diyala, where six U.S. soldiers and a European journalist were killed when a massive bomb destroyed their vehicle, the U.S. military said. Two U.S. soldiers were wounded, the military said.
Two other American soldiers died Sunday in separate bombings in Baghdad.
The military Sunday also reported three other deaths — two Marines in a blast Sunday in Anbar province and a soldier who died Sunday in a non-combat incident in northern Iraq.
The deaths raised to at least 3,373 members of the U.S. military who have died since the Iraq war started in March 2003, according to an Associated Press count.
Car bomb devastates market
Earlier Sunday, a car bomb ripped through a wholesale food market in western Baghdad, flattening cars and shops and killing at least 30 people in the deadliest of a wave of attacks across Iraq that left at least 54 people dead.
The attack against the market in Baghdad came amid an 11-week-old crackdown by U.S.-led forces intended to bring stability to the capital.
Another car bomb struck the police headquarters in Samarra, a volatile city in the Sunni heartland 60 miles north of Baghdad, killing four police — including the police chief — and a bystander, police said. A few minutes later, militants in the town attacked a police checkpoint near the Askariya shrine, killing another police officer, police said.
Dozens of al-Qaida linked insurgents — some wearing masks and carrying video cameras and black banners — also paraded through the streets, arriving in about 40 cars, in a show of force against the U.S.-Iraqi efforts to tame the Tigris River city.
It was the bombing that devastated the golden dome of the Shiite mosque on Feb. 22, 2006, that has been blamed for setting off a cycle of retaliatory sectarian violence that U.S.-Iraqi forces are struggling to curb.
The violence occurred after the lifting of a curfew that had been imposed after police in the area received threats warnings them to quit their jobs or face attacks. The curfew was imposed again after Sunday’s attacks.
The police chief who was killed, Col. Jalil Nahi Hassoun, assumed the helm of the force about a year ago. He worked closely with the U.S. military but was disliked by many Samarrans who alleged his forces conducted random arrests and held people without charge for prolonged periods.
The U.S. military also said three U.S. troops were killed in separate attacks, including two Marines in fighting Saturday in Anbar province, a Sunni insurgent stronghold west of Baghdad, and a roadside bomb that killed a soldier and wounded four others Friday in western Baghdad. A fourth U.S. service member, from Task Force Lightning, died Sunday in a non-combat related incident, the military said.
Britain on Sunday said one of its soldiers died of injuries from a Thursday roadside bomb in the southern city of Basra.
The market blast Sunday erupted about noon in the mixed Sunni-Shiite Baiyaa neighborhood and devastated the area, reducing cars and trucks to their charred skeletons and ripping the roofs and exteriors off shops. In addition to the dead, dozens of others were injured.
Blood pooled in the dirt streets. Hospital officials said two pickup trucks filled with body parts were brought to the morgue.
“I was waiting near a shop to lift some boxes, when I saw the owner of the shop fall down,” said Satar Hussein, 22, a worker in the market. “I helped him inside the shop, but he was already dead. The next thing I felt was pain in my left shoulder and some people rushing me to the hospital.”
Ali Hamid, 25, the owner of a food store, said he was selling boxes of Pepsi when he was hit with shrapnel in his hand.
“I fainted, and the next thing I remember is some people putting me in a pickup with two dead bodies and rushing me to the hospital,” he said, condemning the attack as “a terrorist act aiming at creating more sectarian tension and strife.”
Scene of frequent violence
No one immediately claimed responsibility for the attack in Baiyaa, the scene of frequent sectarian violence including a bombing and mortar attack last week that killed seven people.
In an effort to strike at insurgents, U.S. troops led an early morning raid into Sadr City and were attacked by militants armed with rifles and rockets who were hiding in a building. Four other armed men attacked them from behind a car, and the troops again returned fire, destroying the car, the military said.
The troops had targeted four buildings in the area based on intelligence indicating the presence of an insurgent cell that smuggled weapons — including powerful roadside bombs known as “explosively formed penetrators” — from Iran, sent fighters to the neighboring country for training and was involved in a kidnapping network, the military said.
The target of the raid was not found, said Maj. Gen. William Caldwell, the chief U.S. military spokesman.
In one of the buildings they searched, the forces uncovered a large cache of weapons, including more than 150 mortar rounds, and a torture room, replete with several sets of handcuffs and a mask, he said. Soldiers decided to destroy the building rather than risk moving the explosives and accidentally setting them off, he said.
“The extensive damage it would have done in killing innocent civilians in Sadr City would have been horrific,” he said.
Reduced to rubble
Footage taken by AP Television News, showed the building reduced to piles of brick and rubble.
In other violence Sunday, a car bomb near the Ministry of Labor in Baghdad killed five people and wounded 10, police said.
Insurgents exploded another car bomb outside a police station in the Sunni town of Samarra, about 60 miles north of Baghdad, killing four police and a bystander, police said. A few minutes later, militants in the town attacked a police checkpoint near the Askariya shrine, killing another police officer, police said.
It was the bombing that devastated the golden dome of the Shiite mosque on Feb. 22, 2006, that set of a cycle of retaliatory sectarian violence that U.S.-Iraqi forces are struggling to curb.
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