War In Iraq Continues

Friday, June 24, 2005

Muhammed Uraibi/Associated Press

An Iraqi came to the aid of a man whose clothes were on fire yesterday after four car bombs exploded in central Baghdad

June 24, 2005
Four Car Bombs Explode in Central Baghdad, Killing 17
By JOHN F. BURNS and JAMES GLANZ

BAGHDAD, Iraq, June 23 – Four car bombs exploded in a central Baghdad commercial district early Thursday morning, spewing shattered glass and bits of human skin over the streets while killing at least 17 people. The bombings raised the toll in the capital to at least 43 dead and 100 wounded in a string of similar attacks that began Wednesday night.

The car bombs blew up in quick succession outside two Shiite mosques, next to a police patrol near a gas station and adjacent to an old supermarket in the Karrada neighborhood, an Interior Ministry official said. On a day when dust storms left a stifling gray pall over the city, the stench of the fires and human remains in Karrada was overwhelming.

Shortly after the thud of the explosions, which from a distance sounded like a volley of shells dropped from some great bomb bay, a woman named Um Ahmed frantically searched for her son, Ahmed, who tended a small cosmetics stand in the area. "No one knows where my son is?" Um Ahmed said. "He sets off to work at 6 a.m. He is only 8."

The attacks demonstrate the insurgents’ ability to strike at will across the capital despite a monthlong crackdown by United States and Iraqi troops that commanders have said has been aimed primarily at curbing car bombings. In Baghdad alone, an insurgent offensive aimed at destabilizing the new Shiite majority government killed more than 700 people in the past month, most of them in car bombings.

The United States military command, eager to show progress against the insurgents when Congressional critics of the war have been pressing their doubts in Washington, found solace on Thursday in an unexpected quarter. Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the Jordanian-born militant who has been named Al Qaeda’s chief in Iraq by Osama bin Laden, said in a posting on the Internet that one of Saudi Arabia’s most-wanted militants had been killed by a coalition airstrike in Qaim, on the Syrian border.

The posting contended that the militant, Sheik Abdulla al-Rushood, fought a recent United States-led offensive in Qaim. Ultimately, the posting said, the Americans "bombed the locations of the mujahedeen with jet fighters, and our happy sheik got what he always wished for." Jihadist literature often promotes the joys of dying in a battle against infidels or other enemies.

A car bomb also went off Thursday morning near Kirkuk in the north, killing three Iraqis and wounding eight, said Maj. Safaa Mawlood of the Iraqi Army. Still another car bomb attacked a United States Army convoy in Falluja late on Thursday afternoon, a witness said. No casualties were reported.

Also on Thursday, a group of influential Arab Sunnis agreed on a slate of names that they expect will be added to a committee of legislators that will write Iraq’s constitution. The committee originally consisted of 55 members of the National Assembly, which is dominated by Arab Shiites and Kurds because Iraq’s Sunnis largely boycotted the elections in January.

But the committee eventually agreed to add 15 Sunnis with full membership rights, with an additional 10 as advisers or specialists – all in hopes of drawing Sunnis, who make up most of the country’s violent insurgency, into the political process. After much haggling among the dozens of secular, religious and tribal Sunnis chosen to pick the names, a list of 15 full members was submitted to the committee on Thursday, said two original members of the committee who have negotiated with the Sunnis.

The Sunni leaders also came up with 13 proposed advisers rather than 10. Nearly all of the Sunnis, historically fractious, agreed on the names, said Abdul Khalid Zangana, one of the two negotiators from the committee. One group from Mosul, unhappy with the number of members it had been allocated, refused to endorse the agreement, he said.

"There were reservations from some of them, but they were a minority," he said.

By prior agreement, the 15 full members will have the same rights on the committee as the National Assembly members, said Adbul Rahman Said, another negotiator. Perhaps the most prominent person chosen was Kamal Hamdoon, the leader of the Iraqi bar association. Mr. Said said the assembly could meet next week to approve the names.

Zaineb Obeid and Abdul Razzaqal-Saiedy contributed reporting for this article.

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