boston.com your connection to The Boston Globe

72 killed in fighting around capital

Death squads cited as victims are discovered

Iraqis inspected a damaged vehicle following a car bomb explosion in Baghdad yesterday. A parked car exploded in the Jadriyah neighborhood, killing eight people. Nineteen were wounded. (HADI MIZBAN/ASSOCIATED PRESS)

BAGHDAD -- Bombers struck an Iraqi Army post northeast of Baghdad and civilian targets in the city as violence across Iraq killed at least 72 people yesterday, including the bullet-riddled bodies of 27 men dumped in the capital -- apparent victims of sectarian death squads.

The deadliest attack occurred about 9 a.m. when a suicide car bomber killed 10 Iraqi soldiers at a checkpoint in Khalis, a longtime flashpoint city about 50 miles northeast of Baghdad. Ten other soldiers and five civilians were wounded, police said.

The city is in Diyala province, which has seen some of Iraq's worst violence recently. Mostly Sunni Arab insurgents are thought to have fled to the area to escape the security crackdown in Baghdad that US and Iraqi troops launched on Feb. 14.

In the capital, a car bomb exploded near Baghdad University, killing eight civilians and wounding 19, including some students, police said.

Associated Press Television News footage showed an elderly woman screaming, "Oh, my son," as she sobbed beside twisted debris.

Ahmed Jassim, who works in a nearby hotel, said he rushed outside after hearing the explosion and helped carry the wounded to ambulances.

"The insurgents were surely targeting civilians because there was no military presence in the area," he said.

Four other civilians were killed and nine wounded when a roadside bomb exploded near a market in central Baghdad, police said. The blast missed its intended target -- a passing police patrol.

In the city's sprawling Shi'ite Muslim neighborhood of Sadr City, US troops killed three militants during a gunbattle, the military said. Later in the day, a funeral procession was held in the district for an Iraqi who residents said was killed in the fighting.

Two suicide bombers attacked an office of the Kurdistan Democratic Party of Massoud Barzani, leader of the autonomous Kurdish region in northern Iraq. The blasts killed three security guards and wounded five, police said. Casualties could have been worse if guards had not opened fire on the two attackers, forcing them to detonate their explosives at least 50 yards from the office, police said.

The bombing in Zumar, a town 45 miles west of Mosul, capital of Nineve h province, was the second suicide attack this week aimed at the party in that area.

In other violence, four insurgents were killed as the US targeted suspected Al Qaeda in Iraq militants near Taji, a US air base 12 miles north of Baghdad, the US command said.

It said two women and two children were also believed to have been killed during the fighting. "Unfortunately Al Qaeda in Iraq continues to use women and children in their illegal activities," US spokesman Christopher Garver said.

Two civilians were killed and 12 wounded when mortar shells exploded in the southern Baghdad district of Dora, police said. One civilian died and four were wounded when a car bomb exploded in the Baiyaa district of southwestern Baghdad.

At least 30 tortured bodies were found, including 27 who had been shot to death and left in different parts of Baghdad and three decapitated bodies found south of the capital.

In Tikrit, police said the wife and daughter of a Saddam Hussein cousin were found slain at their home. The wife of Hashim Hassan al-Majid had been shot and the daughter strangled, police Captain Samir Mohammed said. Their names were not released.

Al-Majid's brother is Ali Hassan "Chemical Ali" al-Majid, one of the most notorious figures of Saddam's regime, who is on trial for his alleged role in gassing Kurds and other abuses during a crackdown on Kurds in the 1980s.

SEARCH THE ARCHIVES