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.
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