Attack On Iraqi Laborers Kills Dozens

Iraqis carry a coffin with the body of their dead relative in front of al-Kindi hospital, following two synchronized explosions that occurred in Baghdad, Iraq, Tuesday, Dec. 12, 2006. AP

Suspected insurgents set off two bombs in a main square of central Baghdad where scores of Iraqis were waiting for jobs as day laborers on Tuesday, killing at least 63 people and wounding more than 200.

It was just after 7 a.m. local time when hundreds of Iraqis gathered in a midtown market to sign up for work, reports CBS News correspondent Randall Pinkston. An eyewitness says a driver pulled up to the area asking for day laborers. As eager workers surged forward, the driver detonated a bomb. A hundred feet away, almost simultaneously, another bomb went off in a parked car, Pinkston reports.

Meanwhile, five more U.S. troops have died in Iraq, including three Marines killed in combat in volatile Anbar province, the U.S. command said Tuesday. The three Marines assigned to 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing died Monday of wounds sustained fighting insurgents, according to a statement.

The U.S. military said those killed were not linked to a hard landing Monday by a Marine helicopter in Anbar. At least 18 people were injured in that incident but hostile fire did not appear to be the cause, the military said.

The carefully coordinated attacks at Tayaran Square shattered windows in store fronts, left craters and blood stains in the road, and set fire to about 10 other cars.

Most of the victims were Shiites from poor areas of the capital such as Sadr City, government spokesman Mohammed Abdul-Ghani said.

"In the first explosion, I saw people falling over, some of them blown apart. When the other bomb went off seconds later, it slammed me into a wall of my store and I fainted," said Khalil Ibrahim, 41, a shop owner. He was interviewed at a local hospital where he had been rushed to be treated for shrapnel wounds to his head and back.

An overworked Al Kindi Hospital looked like a M.A.S.H. unit, Pinkston reports.

In other developments:

  • President Bush, facing intense pressure to craft a new blueprint for the Iraq war, said Tuesday the U.S. is holding fast to its objectives and commitment. The White House said he knows the general direction he wants to move U.S. policy but won't announce it until next month. Mr. Bush gave no hints of a change in direction after a meeting with Iraq's Sunni Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi, one of several Iraqi power brokers he's recently hosted in the Oval Office. "Our objective is to help the Iraqi government deal with the extremists and the killers, and support the vast majority of Iraqis who are reasonable, who want peace," he said.

  • Sen. John Kerry, whose botched joke about U.S. troops in Iraq dealt a blow to his presidential ambitions, will travel to Iraq this weekend to meet with soldiers, political leaders and military officials. "I've talked to plenty of guys who've come back from Iraq, who are there now, who understand exactly what happened," Kerry said of his joke in a telephone interview Tuesday. "They laugh at it."

  • A television cameraman working for The Associated Press was shot to death by insurgents while covering clashes Tuesday in the northern city of Mosul, police said. Aswan Ahmed Lutfallah, 35, was having his car repaired in the eastern part of the city when insurgents and police began fighting nearby and he rushed to cover the clash, police Brig. Abdul-Karim Ahmed Khalaf said. Insurgents spotted him filming, approached him and shot him to death, Khalaf said, citing an initial report.

  • A Marine assigned to Regimental Combat Team 7 also died Monday from non-hostile causes in the province, which stretches west from Baghdad to the borders of Syria, Jordan and Saudi Arabia.

  • The military also said a 13th Sustainment Command (Expeditionary) soldier died Monday of apparent natural causes near Diwaniyah, 80 miles south of Baghdad. The soldier lost consciousness and died after being transported to a troop medical clinic.

  • A poll shows Americans believe the war in Iraq is going badly and getting worse, and think it's time for the U.S. either to change its strategy or start getting out. Forty-three percent say the U.S. should keep fighting, but with new tactics, while 50 percent say the U.S. should begin to end its involvement altogether. Only 4 percent say the U.S. should keep fighting as it is doing now.

  • Iraq and Syria held ceremonies in each others' capitals on Monday to celebrate their decision last month to restore diplomatic relations. Syrian officials raised their flag at the Syrian Embassy in Baghdad, and Iraqi officials raised theirs at their embassy in Damascus. Syria had broken diplomatic ties with Iraq in 1982, accusing it of inciting riots in Syria by the banned Muslim Brotherhood. Damascus also sided with Iran in the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq war.

    • Sean Alfano

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