Iraq bombing 'war's deadliest'


Summary

And with local officials predicting the final fatality figure could be higher than 500, the attack has become the deadliest of the Iraqi war.

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VIDEO: Blasts aftermath

Hashim al-Hamadani, a senior provincial security official, Kifah Mohammed, the director of the Sinjar hospital and Iraqi army Captain Mohammed Ahmed all said that 500 were killed and 350 wounded.

As yet, the death toll can not be independently confirmed because the area was under a curfew and the casualties were taken to hospitals in several nearby towns.

Zayan Othman, the Kurdish health minister, also said 350 people were wounded.

The death toll has already surpassed the previous deadliest attack of the war when 215 people were killed by mortar fire and five car bombs in Baghdad's Shi'ite Muslim enclave of Sadr City.

'Ethnic cleansing'

The US military blamed al-Qaeda in Iraq for the blasts and a commander called it an "act of ethnic cleansing".

The victims of Tuesday's coordinated attacks in north western Iraq were members of the Yazidis, a small Kurdish-speaking sect that has been the target of Muslim extremists who say sect-member's are blasphemers.

Four suicide truck bombers struck nearly simultaneously in two villages near the Syrian border, causing buildings to crumble and trapping entire families underneath piles of mud bricks and rubble.

Some entire neighbourhoods were levelled.

"This is an act of ethnic cleansing, if you will, almost genocide, when you consider the fact…these Yazidis are really out in a very remote part of Ninevah province where…there is very little security, and really no security required up until this point," Army Major General Benjamin Mixon, the commander of US forces in northern Iraq, told CNN.

Major General Mixon has previously said that he proposed reducing American troop levels in Ninevah and predicted the province would shift to Iraqi government control as early as this month.

It was unclear whether that projection would hold after Tuesday's staggering violence.

Insurgents regrouping

US officials believe insurgents have been regrouping across northern Iraq after being driven from strongholds in and around Baghdad.

The bombings coincided with the start of a major new offensive aimed at pursuing them in the Diyala River Valley.

The carnage dealt a serious blow to the Bush administrations hopes of presenting a positive picture in a progress report on Iraq to be delivered by top US commander General David Petraeus and US Ambassador Ryan Crocker in about four weeks.

More attacks to come

General Petraeus warned he expected Sunni insurgents to stage more deadly attacks ahead of the report to US Congress, which is deeply divided over whether to begin withdrawing US troops from Iraq.

"This is way out by the Syrian border, an area where we do think in fact some suicide bombers are able to come across the border.

"It's an area that is very, very remote – quite small villages out there – and it was disheartening for us too obviously," General Petraeus said.

"We've always said al-Qaeda would try to carry out sensational attacks this month in particular," he said.

"We've had some success against them in certain areas but we've also said they do retain

the capability to carry out these horrific and indiscriminate attacks such as the ones yesterday. There will be more of that, tragically."

Minorities vulnerable

Minority sects such as the Yazidis are especially vulnerable as militants seek new targets to avoid the strict security measures clamped on Baghdad and surrounding areas to stop the violence among warring Sunni and Shi'ite factions.

Yazidis worship an angel figure considered to be the devil by some Muslims and Christians.

Sect-members, who don't believe in hell or evil, deny that.

The Islamic State in Iraq, an al-Qaeda front group, distributed leaflets a week ago warning residents near the scene of Tuesday's bombings that an attack was imminent because Yazidis are "anti-Islamic."


And with local officials predicting the final fatality figure could be higher than 500, the attack has become the deadliest of the Iraqi war.

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VIDEO: Blasts aftermath

Hashim al-Hamadani, a senior provincial security official, Kifah Mohammed, the director of the Sinjar hospital and Iraqi army Captain Mohammed Ahmed all said that 500 were killed and 350 wounded.

As yet, the death toll can not be independently confirmed because the area was under a curfew and the casualties were taken to hospitals in several nearby towns.

Zayan Othman, the Kurdish health minister, also said 350 people were wounded.

The death toll has already surpassed the previous deadliest attack of the war when 215 people were killed by mortar fire and five car bombs in Baghdad's Shi'ite Muslim enclave of Sadr City.

'Ethnic cleansing'

The US military blamed al-Qaeda in Iraq for the blasts and a commander called it an "act of ethnic cleansing".

The victims of Tuesday's coordinated attacks in north western Iraq were members of the Yazidis, a small Kurdish-speaking sect that has been the target of Muslim extremists who say sect-member's are blasphemers.

Four suicide truck bombers struck nearly simultaneously in two villages near the Syrian border, causing buildings to crumble and trapping entire families underneath piles of mud bricks and rubble.

Some entire neighbourhoods were levelled.

"This is an act of ethnic cleansing, if you will, almost genocide, when you consider the fact…these Yazidis are really out in a very remote part of Ninevah province where…there is very little security, and really no security required up until this point," Army Major General Benjamin Mixon, the commander of US forces in northern Iraq, told CNN.

Major General Mixon has previously said that he proposed reducing American troop levels in Ninevah and predicted the province would shift to Iraqi government control as early as this month.

It was unclear whether that projection would hold after Tuesday's staggering violence.

Insurgents regrouping

US officials believe insurgents have been regrouping across northern Iraq after being driven from strongholds in and around Baghdad.

The bombings coincided with the start of a major new offensive aimed at pursuing them in the Diyala River Valley.

The carnage dealt a serious blow to the Bush administrations hopes of presenting a positive picture in a progress report on Iraq to be delivered by top US commander General David Petraeus and US Ambassador Ryan Crocker in about four weeks.

More attacks to come

General Petraeus warned he expected Sunni insurgents to stage more deadly attacks ahead of the report to US Congress, which is deeply divided over whether to begin withdrawing US troops from Iraq.

"This is way out by the Syrian border, an area where we do think in fact some suicide bombers are able to come across the border.

"It's an area that is very, very remote – quite small villages out there – and it was disheartening for us too obviously," General Petraeus said.

"We've always said al-Qaeda would try to carry out sensational attacks this month in particular," he said.

"We've had some success against them in certain areas but we've also said they do retain

the capability to carry out these horrific and indiscriminate attacks such as the ones yesterday. There will be more of that, tragically."

Minorities vulnerable

Minority sects such as the Yazidis are especially vulnerable as militants seek new targets to avoid the strict security measures clamped on Baghdad and surrounding areas to stop the violence among warring Sunni and Shi'ite factions.

Yazidis worship an angel figure considered to be the devil by some Muslims and Christians.

Sect-members, who don't believe in hell or evil, deny that.

The Islamic State in Iraq, an al-Qaeda front group, distributed leaflets a week ago warning residents near the scene of Tuesday's bombings that an attack was imminent because Yazidis are "anti-Islamic."