Bomb Kills 32 In Iraq Shiite Enclave

Staff Sgt. Redoc Jordan, 43, from Waiawa, Hawaii looks behind him as soldiers from Bravo Company, 1st Battalion, 28th Infantry Regiment, 4th Brigade, 1st Infantry Division search a block in the Rashid neighborhood in Baghdad, Iraq Tuesday May 15, 2007.
AP Photo/Maya Alleruzzo
A parked car bomb exploded near a market in a Shiite enclave northeast of the capital, killing at least 32 people and wounding 50, police said Wednesday. Hospital officials and wounded victims said chlorine gas may have been used in the attack, but police and the U.S. military denied that.

The attack occurred near an outside market in the village of Abu Saydah in the volatile Diyala province, local police said, giving the casualty toll.

Residents of the farming village of 10,000 people said the attack appeared to be revenge for a confrontation a month ago in which locals killed 12 al-Qaida fighters. They said residents had fought back against Sunni militants trying to storm the village and 10 days later received threats to leave the village or face death.

It was not clear why the bombing went unreported until Wednesday, more than 12 hours after police said the explosion occurred.

Hospital officials and victims said it appeared chlorine gas was used in the attack since many of the wounded were having difficulty breathing and their sight was affected. But Lt. Col. Michael Donnelly, a U.S. military spokesman in northern Iraq, and provincial Iraqi police officials denied that toxic gas was involved.

"Our folks on the scene ... who are investigating this do not have any of those indications," Donnelly told The Associated Press. But the investigation was continuing, he said.

One man had a white cloth across his eyes as he lay in his hospital bed; others were bandaged from head to toe.

Abu Saydah is a mainly Shiite village about 25 miles northeast of the Sunni insurgent stronghold of Baqouba, the capital of the province that has seen a recent spike in violence largely blamed on militants who fled Baghdad ahead of a U.S.-Iraqi security crackdown.

Kadim Hussein, a 45-year-old farmer who was taken to the Imam Ali hospital in Sadr City, claimed the hospitals in Baqouba would only accept Sunnis.

"My eyes became puffy due the chlorine gas that was packed in the car bomb," he said, adding he also had difficulties breathing.

A hospital official said the facility had received three bodies and 11 of those wounded who all showed symptoms of chlorine poisoning. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he wasn't authorized to speak to the media.

Diyala province — with its mixed Shiite and Sunni Muslim population — has been the scene of frequent violence of a sectarian nature as well as attacks by anti-U.S. insurgents.

Meanwhile, thousands of U.S. forces continued to search for three American soldiers feared captured by al Qaeda last week after an attack on their convoy south of Baghdad, which also killed four U.S. troops and an Iraqi soldier.

U.S. aircraft dropped leaflets on an area south of Baghdad Wednesday, seeking information on three soldiers feared captured. Trucks with loudspeakers were roaming the area urging people to come forward with any information. No details of the leaflets or their precise message were released.

They were lost Saturday in an ambush in the so-called Triangle of Death. Four of their comrades were killed.

An umbrella terror group calling itself the Islamic State of Iraq claims responsibility and has warned the U.S. to stop the search.

All the soldiers are with the storied 10th Mountain Division based at Fort Drum, New York.

In other developments:

  • A U.S. government report released Tuesday showed that the recent U.S. troop increase and security crackdown has had little effect on the high number of attacks in the country. The average number of attacks rose from 71 a day in January 2006 to a high of 176 per day in October, according to the report from the Government Accountability Office. In February, when the troop increase began to take effect, daily attacks dropped slightly to 164. Daily attacks averaged 157 in March and 149 in April, the report said.
  • Clashes broke out in the mostly Shiite city of Nasiriyah in southern Iraq Wednesday, when a militia fought with police there after they arrested two wanted militia members, police said. Nine Iraqis were killed and 75 wounded, a police spokesman said.
  • Ten mortar rounds slammed into the U.S.-controlled Green Zone on Wednesday, killing at least two Iraqis and wounding 10 other people, oficials said. The explosions occurred at about the same time the Green Zone was hit on Tuesday. U.S. Embassy spokesman Lou Fintor said 10 mortars struck the sprawling complex on the west bank of the Tigris River. He said the two killed were Iraqis as were eight of those wounded. He said two other foreigners were wounded but they were not Americans.
  • A small group of Republican senators, led by Virginia's John Warner, is coalescing around legislation that would threaten billions of dollars in U.S. aid to Iraq and make clear American troops will stay only as long as Baghdad lives up to its promises. The Senate was to vote (read more) on the proposal Wednesday, along with two Democratic anti-war measures.