76 killed in 4 suicide attacks in Iraq
* US military claims killing 100 insurgents in Operation Matador
BAGHDAD: Four suicide bombs killed at least 76 people in Iraq on Wednesday, the latest attacks in an escalating campaign of guerrilla violence that has killed nearly 400 Iraqis since a new government was unveiled two weeks ago.
In Saddam Hussein’s hometown of Tikrit, a suicide car bomber blew up his vehicle among a crowd of mainly Shia migrant labourers from southern Iraq who had gathered to look for work.
Police said at least 33 people were killed and 80 wounded.
A policeman at the scene of the blast in Tikrit said the explosion was near a police station but the target was the crowd of workers. “What I saw was a tragedy,” said Ibrahim Mohammed, a migrant worker from the town of Kut who witnessed the blast. “Some people had their heads torn off by the explosion, some were burnt, some were ripped to pieces.”
Mainly Sunni guerrillas have often targeted Shias, sparking fears they are trying to stoke sectarian civil war. In the town of Hawija, southwest of the strategic oil city of Kirkuk in northern Iraq, a suicide bomber walked up to an army recruitment centre and detonated an explosive belt, killing at least 32 people and wounding 34, hospital sources said.
A third suicide bomber blew up his vehicle near a police station in the southern Baghdad suburb of Dora, killing at least three civilians. Police said the bomber was trying to reach the police station but blew up his car before reaching the building.
A suicide car bomb attack on a police patrol in the Mansour district of Baghdad killed two policemen and a civilian, officials at the Interior Ministry said. Insurgents have launched a blitz of attacks since Iraq’s political leaders announced a new cabinet on April 28.
Insurgents have also snatched two more foreign hostages – an Australian engineer captured in Baghdad in late April and a Japanese security contractor seized on Sunday in western Iraq.
The captors of Australian hostage Douglas Wood, 63, demanded that Australia pull its troops out of Iraq by Tuesday. Canberra insisted it would not negotiate with kidnappers and the deadline passed with no word on his fate.
Last week, Wood’s captors released video footage showing him looking distraught as two masked gunmen pointed rifles at him. His head had been shaven and he appeared to have a black eye.
The US military has launched a major offensive in the desert north of Qaim, which it says is a key base of foreign fighters entering Iraq from Syria. The military says it has killed more than 100 insurgents since Operation Matador began. “The region is used as staging area for foreign fighters who cross the Syrian border illegally through smuggling routes,” the military said in a statement.
“It is here that these foreign fighters receive the weapons and equipment to conduct attacks, such as suicide car bombs and assassination or kidnapping of political or civilian targets.”
Three Marines have been killed during the operation, and overall since Saturday, 14 American servicemen have been killed in Iraq, an unusually heavy toll for the US military. reuters