14 Killed In Baghdad Pet Market Blast

A wounded man is treated in al-Kindi hospital in Baghdad, Iraq, Friday Jan. 26, 2007 after being hurt in an explosion at animal market. AP Photo/Ali Abed

A bomb hidden in a box holding pigeons tore through a crowded animal market in central Baghdad on Friday, killing at least 14 people and wounding dozens, police said, in a blast that also left the carcasses of dead birds, dogs and other creatures scattered on the blood-soaked ground.

Violence continued across Iraq Friday — the Islamic holy day — as a bomb in Talafar killed at least nine people and further blasts in Mosul and the capital claimed an unknown number of casualties.

The attacks, mostly targeting Shiite civilians, come just days ahead of one of the holiest dates on the calendar for the Muslim sect — Ashura, the anniversary of the death of Imam Hussain, the Prophet Muhammad's grandson.

The market bomb in Baghdad exploded Friday late in the morning at the Souq al-Ghazl market, which attracts buyers and sellers peddling birds, dogs, cats, sheep and goats and exotic animals such as snakes and monkeys.

Police and hospital officials said at least 14 people were killed and 62 were wounded.

Iraqi police sources tell CBS News that the blasts in Talafar and Mosul targeted Shiite mosques, and although no further details on casualties were immediately available, the mosques were likely to have been full of men attending Friday afternoon prayers.

The sources say there were two late afternoon explosions in Baghdad, one of them an improvised explosive device believed to have killed two people. There was no information available on the other blast.

A witness of the morning explosion at the pet market said a man arrived with an egg carton containing pigeons for sale, but it exploded after he walked away to get a drink, striking the potential buyers gathering around the box.

Raad Hassan, a frequent customer at the market, said he was about 60 yards away from the site of the blast.

"My friends and I rushed to the scene where we saw burned dead bodies, pieces of flesh and several dead expensive puppies and birds," he said.

Ali Nassir said dead animals were scattered on the blood-soaked ground and several snakes, monkeys and birds had been let loose from their cages as ambulances and police cars converged on the scene.

"The policemen are firing in the air in order to disperse the crowds of people arriving to find out what happened to relatives who were missing," he said. "The explosion was huge and happened in a crowded place."

An 18-year-old homing pigeon vendor who was wounded expressed frustration at the unrelenting violence in the capital.

"I went this morning to the animal market to earn some money and to entertain myself, instead I was hit by the explosion and lost consciousness, my pigeons and my mobile phone," Sajad Abdel-Jabar said from his hospital bed.

The attack occurred at one of the busiest times at the weekly market and was the latest in a series of bombings against busy commercial targets in the capital as suspected Sunni insurgents seek to maximize the number of casualties in pressing their campaign of violence before a U.S.-Iraqi security crackdown gets started.

The blast also came an hour before the start of a four-hour vehicle ban that is imposed every Friday in the capital to prevent car bombs from striking mosques during weekly Islamic prayers.

The al-Ghazl market, or Spinning Market, also was attacked in early June, when two bombings struck in quick succession, killing at least five people, as insurgents often strike commercial targets to maximize the casualties.

The popular market stands on the eastern side of the Tigris River next to the famous 13th century Sunni Ulama Mosque that was built by the Abbasid dynasty. The shops around the mosque used to be for its spinning mills but the area transformed into an animal market a few decades ago.

The shops are open all the week but vendors come on Friday and set up stalls on the 500-yard-long stretch of pavement on Jumhuri Street.

In other developments:

  • A U.S. Marine assigned to Regimental Combat Team 6 also was killed in fighting Friday in the insurgent stronghold of Anbar province, west of Baghdad, the military said. The death raises to at least 3,070 members of the U.S. military who have died since the Iraq war started in March 2003, according to an Associated Press count.

  • Street sweepers and trash collectors worked to clear the wreckage as cranes towed burned-out cars away after Thursday's bombing in Karradah, which killed at least 26 people. It was the second blast targeting the primarily Shiite neighborhood in two days. Many in the neighborhood called for revenge against Sunnis and urged Iraq's spiritual leader Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani to issue a fatwa allowing them to take it.

  • Police also found a bomb in Karradah, apparently targeting a Shiite procession that is part of the 10-day Ashoura festival, which marks the death of Imam Hussein, grandson of the Prophet Muhammad and one of the most-revered Shiite saints. The bomb could not be defused so police detonated the explosive device in a controlled blast, which damaged several stores.

  • Seven tortured bodies of people who had been blindfolded and had their hands and legs bound before they were shot in the head were found in the capital Friday, according to police.

  • A former member of Saddam Hussein's ousted Baath Party and an interpreter who works for the U.S. military were killed in two separate drive-by shootings in Kut, 100 miles southeast of Baghdad.

  • Prime minister Nouri al-Maliki vowed Thursday to go after those behind Baghdad's rampant violence no matter where they try to hide and regardless of sectarian beliefs, promising at the same time to ensure the human rights of innocent Iraqis. "We are full of hope. We have no other choice but to use force and any place where we receive fire will not be safe even if it is a school, a mosque, a political party office or home," he said. "There will be no safe place in Iraq for terrorists."
    • Scott Conroy On Twitter»

      Scott Conroy is a National Political Reporter for RealClearPolitics and a contributor for CBS News.

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