More than 140 killed in Baghdad’s Sadr City

More than 140 killed in Baghdad’s Sadr City
BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) — A savage string of apparently coordinated bombings erupted Thursday in Sadr City, a Shiite slum of Baghdad, killing more than 140 people. Police called it the deadliest single strike in Iraq since the war began more than three years ago.

Police told The Associated Press that the death toll was expected to rise.

Bombs and mortar shells struck Sadr City at 15-minute intervals, beginning about 3 p.m., according to the AP, with the first bombing hitting a vegetable market. (Watch flames, chaos in Sadr City )

Shiites responded almost immediately, the AP reported, firing 10 mortar rounds at the holiest Sunni shrine in Baghdad, the Abu Hanifa Sunni mosque in Azamiya. The attack killed one person and wounded 14 others, the AP said.

Witnesses told CNN that people on loudspeakers at Shiite mosques in urged residents to donate blood for the wounded in Sadr city.

Police had different numbers for those killed and wounded, but Iraqi Health Minister Ali Shummari said the death toll was 144, with 206 wounded. He said there were six car bombs and a missile fired.

The Interior Ministry imposed a curfew for Baghdad starting at 8 p.m., an hour earlier than the usual overnight curfew begins. It’s unclear how long the curfew extension will last.

Thursday’s violence came a day after a U.N. report about Iraq that underscored the unbridled sectarian violence in Iraq. The report said that 3,709 civilians were killed in violence in Iraq in October — the highest monthly toll since the war’s start. (Full story)

Thursday’s attacks, launched within the course of half an hour, were part of a spasm of violence that shook two Baghdad bastions of support for anti-American Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr — the Sadr City slum in the Iraqi capital’s northeast and the Health Ministry compound, controlled by the cleric’s political movement.

At least 30 gunmen thought to be from a Sunni neighborhood attacked the Health Ministry, police said.

U.S. military commanders suspect al-Sadr’s movement is at the center of sectarian fighting in the capital over the past year.

There were no immediate details about casualties at the ministry compound, which is in central Baghdad’s Bab al-Mudham area.

At least three mortar rounds landed inside the compound, police said, and the gunmen tried to break into it and fought with ministry security guards.

A Health Ministry official said the attackers came from the nearby Sunni neighborhood of Fadhel and that they also struck the Shiite Endowment, which manages Shiite institutions around the country.

There were other attacks earlier this week on Health Ministry officials. A deputy minister was kidnapped Sunday, and another official escaped injury Monday when gunmen opened fire on his convoy and killed two of his guards.


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