Friday, December 09, 2005

Report #49 on the Era of Peace

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Macon Daily

Baghdad bus bomb kills 30 a week before vote
By: Paul Tait and Seif Fouad

December 8, 2005

BAGHDAD (Reuters) - A suicide bomber killed 30 people and wounded at least 25 on a Baghdad bus on Thursday, in a bloody escalation of Iraq's insurgency a week before elections.

The second major suicide bombing in the capital in three days, after a lull of several weeks, snapped attention back onto Iraq's sectarian tensions after the theater of Saddam Hussein's trial this week.

It came a day after U.S. President George W. Bush applauded the progress in the reconstruction of Iraqi cities like Najaf and Mosul, and as kidnappers holding four Western hostages extended a deadline to kill them by 48 hours.

Police said the crowded public bus was about to leave the Nahda bus station in central Baghdad for the southern Shi'ite city of Nassiriya when the attacker got on board and detonated a vest packed with explosives.

Firefighters pulled charred bodies from the wrecked bus and loaded them into waiting ambulances as police tried to restore order around the site of the blast.

"I was standing near when the blast happened," one man told Reuters television as he stood in front of the mangled wreckage, adding he had seen some passengers who survived with injuries. "All the remaining people inside the bus were killed," he said.

In August the central Baghdad bus station was hit by three car bombs, one of which tore through a bus destined for Basra, also in the predominantly Shi'ite south.

Thursday's bombing was the latest in a seemingly relentless insurgency led by Sunni Arabs, once dominant under Saddam, and foreign fighters against the Shi'ite and Kurdish-led government and its U.S. backers.

On Tuesday, suicide bombers breached security at Baghdad's police academy and killed 36 police officers and cadets.

Security forces are braced for a surge in violence ahead of the December 15 elections for Iraq's first full-term government since Saddam's fall.


Iraqis this week have been riveted by the televised trial of Saddam on charges of crimes against humanity.

The trial was adjourned for two weeks on Wednesday after three highly charged sessions this week which culminated in the former president boycotting the U.S.-funded court after telling judges to "go to hell".

Chief judge Rizgar Mohammed Amin said he would use the two-week break to consider a defense motion to review the way the sometimes harrowing testimony was given.

The major attacks this week follow the abductions of Westerners after a relative lull in kidnappings.

An Iraqi militant group holding four Western Christian aid workers as hostages said on Wednesday it had extended to December 10 a deadline to kill them unless Iraqi prisoners are freed, Al Jazeera television reported.

British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw again called for the group calling itself the "Swords of Truth" to release the hostages -- 74-year-old Briton Norman Kember, two Canadians and an American.

International media broadcast what they said was a new video of the hostages, showing Kember and another hostage wearing orange jumpsuits and blindfolds and with their hands shackled.

Some previous hostages have been dressed in orange jumpsuits before being executed. The outfits are associated with images of Muslims detained at a U.S. base at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba.

Muslim scholars, activists from around the world and a Jordanian cleric jailed in Britain for links to al Qaeda have all appealed for the release of the aid workers.

The United States and key ally Britain have said they will not yield to the kidnappers' demands.

Thousands of civilians have been kidnapped in Iraq since the fall of Saddam, including more than 200 foreigners.

Some foreigners were seized by criminal gangs seeking ransom but insurgents also used them to pressure their governments to withdraw their armies from Iraq.

Many hostages have been released, but around 50 have been killed, some by grisly beheadings broadcast on the Internet.

(Additional reporting by Gideon Long)


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