Baghdad toll exceeds 200

The toll in Thursday’s attacks on the Iraqi capital rises to 202 as the city is put under curfew.

The Sadr City bombings wrecked entire streets
The Sadr City bombings wrecked entire streets
State-run television said the government had also closed Baghdad International Airport to commercial flights until further notice.
Ports and the airport in the southern Shia city of Basra would close in protest over the attacks, an official said.
Pull out threat 

Muqtada al-Sadr, the young cleric whose Jaish al-Mahdi (Mahdi Army) militia dominates Sadr City, told chanting supporters in a Friday sermon that the most prominent religious figure from the Sunni group must issue an edict demanding an end to the killing of Shia Muslims.


One of al-Sadr’s political aides in parliament told Reuters it would pull out of the US-backed national unity government and from parliament if Nuri al-Maliki, the Shia prime minister, went ahead with next week’s meeting with George Bush, the US president, in Jordan.


Faleh Hasan Shanshal told Reuters: “We have asked al-Maliki to cancel his meeting with Bush as there is no reason to meet the criminal who is behind terrorism in Iraq.


“We will suspend our membership in parliament and the cabinet if he goes ahead.”


The attacks

Six bombs, apparently coordinated, and a mortar blast were used in Thursday’s attacks which caused widespread damage.
Armed men also attacked the city’s health ministry on Thursday and fought security guards in a gun battle, trapping 2,000 employees inside.
Officials said the toll could rise since many of the dead had been reduced to scattered body parts and not been fully counted.
After dark, there was sporadic gunfire in several districts.
One of the blasts went off at a market, a regular target for Sunni fighters in the sectarian conflict that has killed thousands of people in Iraq. The neighbourhood is a stronghold of the Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr.

After the attacks, al-Maliki warned of “the dark hand of conspiracy that is shedding the blood of the innocent” and urged restraint, saying those responsible would be caught.

Leading Shia, Sunni and Kurdish politicians made a joint appeal for calm on Iraqi television.
Ministry raid
Interior ministry sources said five people were wounded at the health ministry building, about 5km from Sadr City.

“The gunmen came in civilian cars and pick-up trucks and started shooting at the building”

Hakim al-Zamili, deputy health minister

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The attackers fired mortars, rocket-propelled grenades and machine guns into the compound. The ministry is run by followers of al-Sadr.

Hakim al-Zamili, the deputy health minister, was trapped in the building with the employees.
He said: “First, a series of mortars were fired at the building from the nearby Al-Fadhel neighbourhood, and then about 100 masked gunmen holding machine guns attacked.
“The gunmen came in civilian cars and pick-up trucks and started shooting at the building and wounded a number of employees.”
The attackers later withdrew after clashes with American and Iraqi security forces.
A health ministry spokesman said: “The gunmen fled as American helicopters and Iraqi armoured vehicles arrived. Employees were [later] able to leave.”
The fighting lasted for several hours but the attackers failed to break into the ministry compound.
Source : News Agencies


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