Iraq bombs, market attacks leave 40 dead



Baghdad: Market bombings and other attacks across Iraq killed at least 40 people on Tuesday, and one senior intelligence figure said he could not rule out that guards may have taken bribes to allow terrorists to penetrate security during a Shiite pilgrimage.

The latest attacks added to fears that Iraq is descending further into violence after the last American troops withdrew late last year. More than 275 people have died in attacks over the past month, the bloodiest period since immediately after the US withdrawal.

Yesterday morning's wave of bombings struck six Iraqi cities and towns. The worst hit was Diwaniyah, 130 kilometers south of Baghdad, where an explosives-laden vegetable truck detonated in a crowded market. Officials said 26 people were killed and about 75 wounded.

Vegetable seller Salah Abbas, 41, described a scene of chaos after the explosion ripped through the crowd.

"There were many charred bodies on the ground," said Abbas, who rushed to help wounded fellow merchants before ambulances arrived. He managed to push one to safety in a cart, but he said two others died at the market.

"People screaming and crying some were coming in to get their relatives, while others were running out. Then rumors spread of more car bombs, and people ran out of the market in panic," he said.

A senior Iraqi military intelligence official said there were at least two security lapses in yesterday’s market attack, and money might have changed hands.

One guard at a security checkpoint in Diwaniyah failed to properly search the produce truck because he said he couldn't stand the smell of rotting vegetables and fruit, and another guard later allowed the truck to enter the market itself instead of being unloaded outside as security rules require, the intelligence official said.

He said, "We do not rule out that bribes were paid to some at the checkpoints." The military official spoke on condition of anonymity in order to discuss sensitive matters of security.

PTI